Why Perfection Is Not Your Goal (If You Want To Succeed)
What is perfect? Are you perfect? When’s the last time you experienced a perfect product or worked with a perfect team member? How would you even define perfection? It doesn’t mean “the best.” Is perfection your goal? Because, it’s not even technically possible to achieve. It’s important to really consider this because, in reality, perfection has a lot more to do with anxiety than it does with excellence and success. If you think this is an excuse to be sloppy or half-hearted in your efforts as a founder-entrepreneur, it’s not. Your drive to be great is critical to your success, but there’s a big difference between a great idea, a product with Wow! Factor, and perfection. That difference is that one gets sold and makes you a lot of money, and the other wastes your time, energy, resources and creativity. Here’s why setting the goal of good or done is better than perfect every time.
5 Downsides of Perfection
Seeking perfection can push people to the peak of their game, but, particularly for entrepreneurs, it comes at a high cost. Here’s why.
- It limits your potential
Steve Jobs is a name that gets brought up a lot when we’re talking about the concept of perfectionism in innovation. Yes, Jobs was a visionary, a complex and brilliant creative mind, and the iPhone and the Macbook are what they are because of his exacting standards and relentless approach to perfection.
Here’s the downside: imagine what other incredible, world-changing, extraordinary ideas were scrapped and never came to be because they didn’t measure up to his standards? What else would we have at our fingertips right now if he had been willing to improve upon an idea or prototype that was decent, good, or even very good, but not perfect? Concepts that Steve Jobs cast aside might have been roughed out, brought to market and improved upon until they were great.
Sometimes good enough is good enough.
- It robs you of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP)
There are two main reasons why an MVP is often the standard for hitting the market: 1. it confirms that potential customers actually want your product and 2. that they’ll pay for it. The entire point of the MVP is that it is not the final iteration, it’s a tool to gain feedback that will make your product great. Good gets you to market. Market gives you invaluable, priceless data. Changes based on that data make your product great.
It’s impossible to do this in a vacuum. Taking a swing, planting a flag, trying something – you’re giving the consumer something to respond to in order to make your product great. They won’t be able to tell you what it is in the abstract, but they’ll know it when they see it.
Often attributed to Henry Ford, this quote sums it up well: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
- It moves the finish line
When your bar is “perfect,” you will, quite literally, never be done. When the finish line keeps moving on you, the drive to continue optimizing is relentless which will eventually cause you to burn out. Seeking perfection in your business can cause you to obsess over it in your personal life and downtime, both of which are necessary to keeping your mind agile and creative. It is draining enough being a founder-CEO, without adding the heavy burden of perfectionism to your plate.
- It wastes your time, energy and opportunities
Seeking perfection can cause founders and entrepreneurs to get small in their thinking, focusing on the wrong things at the expense of big opportunities. You will waste your time on details that don’t matter, and miss the chance to take big swings – like network with industry leaders, pitch investors and collaborate meaningfully with your talented team. You will spend a disproportionate amount of your most precious, unrenewable resource (time) on areas that do not have a real impact on your success.
- It makes you risk-averse
Perfectionism is a fancy word for keeping yourself small. By hiding behind the idea that perfect is attainable, and that you’ll definitely launch your product when you get there, you never actually have to launch your product. You don’t have to expose your idea to the world. You don’t have to hear the criticism. You don’t have to stand beside it and feel vulnerable or, if it fails, ashamed. Guess what? Risk is good. Fear is good. Those are signs you are doing something right. If you feel 100% confident in your product, you’re either wrong or too late. Get out there while you’re still not comfortable and learn the greatest lessons you’ll ever learn. You won’t ever get to perfect, but you can get to great, and you can be successful. You just have to get your priorities right.
Perfect doesn’t matter if no one else ever gets to see it.
In case you have any lingering misconceptions that perfectionism is a good thing, consider that research has shown it’s actually linked to mental illness, depression and anxiety. Spending the rest of your life tinkering with the last 10% to make your product perfect is a great way to ensure you never sell one and you never succeed. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Set a high standard, achieve it and get your product into the marketplace where your consumers can teach you what you don’t know: the valuable information that will allow you to optimize your offering for success. One of the best parts about being an entrepreneur, particularly in the tech space, is that you are never done. There’s always a new innovation or solution out there ready to change everything. When that happens, do you want to be in the game, or standing on the sidelines? If you’re ready to get your game changing tech solution to market, I want to hear about it.
Enjoy the ride.