Is Perfection Slowing Your Progress?

Is Perfection Slowing Your Progress?
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Winston Churchill said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Confucius opined, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” and Voltaire believed that, “the best is the enemy of the good.”

While this belief is not new, it is something that many of us have to learn again and again, present company included! The last year has given me lots of opportunity to reflect on something that I have thought about for quite some time now.

It’s no surprise that the year 2020 was filled with challenges and while things appear to be moving in a positive direction in 2021, we are still not back to 100% normal.

You see, I had a robust blog post in mind for this month, and the last month, and the month before that. It was going to be a 10,000 word treatise on business consulting, marketing, and every other topic you would want to know about in relation to your small business and entrepreneurship.

This article was going to be so beautiful, it would make Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Oprah Winfrey marvel at my business acumen while Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and Jane Austen would rejoice in the heavens at my mastery of the written word. After publishing it, I’m sure it would be immediately added to the Library of Congress for its immediate and cultural significance.

Instead, you’re “stuck” with this article; sorry about that!

What happened to this content “masterpiece?” Well, you see, much like it always does, life happened.

There was work to be done for our clients, friends and family were ill and needed support, law school applications had to be submitted (fingers crossed I get the General Counsel position at EID Visions in a few years!). The many things that pop up are not unique to me but are simply a function of going through life. Like a proverbial hydra, for every problem that gets solved, two more get created and need solutions.

One thing that I have to continually remind myself of is that “done is better than perfect.” This is easier said than done and is something that I continually have to remind myself of but the reality is that the best article in my mind is worth nothing compared to an actual published article that goes out to those on our newsletter.

And the kicker? Every time I “dislike” one of my blog posts, many people interact with them online in some form or another and appreciate the insight and advice they provide.

Could it be that even if I wrote the perfect article, that I would still find some way to be unhappy about it? Perhaps…… 🤔🤔🤔

The irony here is this ties in to a business concept known as the MVP or Minimum Viable Product. Like the name implies, the MVP is the smallest iteration of a product or service that you can have in order to gain customers or clients, get feedback, and move forward and grow as a company. Oftentimes, by focusing on “perfection,” we limit ourselves from future growth because we are scared that something isn’t “ready” yet. The reality is that even if something doesn’t have everything yet, doesn’t mean the current version doesn’t provide value.

One real world example that served as the inspiration for this article was a side project I’ve been working on, As a law school applicant, I noticed that there were tons of sources of information related to the admissions process. However, it was fragmented and there was no one centralized source to see it all. I elected to work on a resource directory so that information could be consolidated and applicants could be pointed in the right direction depending on what they are looking for; whether it is metrics related to law schools or resources on submitting law school applications.

There are over 200+ law schools in the United States and gathering all the information is somewhat cumbersome. At the end of the day, everything has to be looked at and confirmed so that I can ensure that the data is accurate and relevant. Originally, I wanted to gather all the information I needed for each and every school in an effort to publish the directory when it is “complete” and “ready.” However, while working on the resource directory, I realized that the information that I already collated was still of use to prospective and current applicants. My lack of inclusion of all 200+ schools didn’t make the information I did have about some schools any less useful.

After some reflection, I realized that the only thing standing in my way of launching LSR was myself. By doing a soft launch, I published the directory with the information I had compiled about twenty five schools and shared it with applicants for their use and feedback. At first, I was concerned. What if I was wrong and this directory was “useless” for those who are applying to schools that aren’t on the list yet. What if people hated it and thought it was a waste of their time?

What happened instead was that the reception to it was overwhelmingly positive and I got some feedback which helped the next iteration.

I then launched a new version with fifty schools and got feedback on that.

Had I waited for it to be “complete,” it also would have been a larger problem to go back and implement feedback. This way, I can iterate with each version and the final product will be even better than it would have been had I released everything all at once.

Another positive side effect is that by breaking up the release cycle into smaller manageable chunks, it is easier to stay on task and be motivated to complete the job.

We can apply this mentality to other projects/tasks and see how it makes sense. When a house is being built, there isn’t just one inspection at the very end of construction. Certain parts of construction are done piecemeal and each step contributes to the overall completion. Imagine if the entire house had to be torn down because that was the earliest it was noticed that the foundation had severe problems!

Putting an MVP out there helps you see what works and what doesn’t faster. As important as it is to see what works, it is equally important, if not more so to see what doesn’t work so you can “fail faster.” Although, that could be a blog post on it’s own! (hint! hint!)

Ultimately, if I can summarize the value that I’d like others to gather from this post, it would be to go out and create what you’d like. Don’t let the fear of not putting something “perfect” out there stop you from getting started on your “next big thing.”

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to overcoming your fear of the “imperfect” and starting your business’ journey to the next level?

Originally published at the EID Visions Blog on March 30, 2021.