Good morning everyone, my name is Zeke and I’m a perfectionist. I’ve been clean for about a year and life is now a lot better!
Being a perfectionist is really, really bad. I crashed two businesses because of it. Luckily, I was 18 when I was running the first one and 20 when I was running the second one, so I didn’t have a family to support, but it could have been worse.
In the first case, my company was spending more than it was making but I was obsessed with making the logo look better. It didn’t look right to me. So I worked for two entire weeks on a new logo. By the time I was done, the logo was exactly what I wanted, but I didn’t have enough cash to run my business.
In the second case, I delayed launching our website for three months because it didn’t have all the features I wanted. By the time we actually launched, our cash reserves were so thin that we didn’t have enough money for a decent marketing campaign.
90% Is Good Enough
Making something 100% perfect takes three times as much time and effort as making it 90% perfect. It’s a fact. A really good website can be done in two weeks. A perfect website will take much longer than that. The same thing goes for logos, presentations, products and pretty much everything you do.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, chances are your customers don’t even care about most of the things you obsess about. You can spend an entire hour formatting your reports so they look pretty, but your customers care about the data in the reports. You can spend days finding the right color scheme for your literature, but will you lose or win a new client because of it? I found that I was wasting a lot of time doing things that only I cared about. Your goal is to serve your customers, not to feed your ego.
You Win Some and Lose Some
Another big issue with perfectionists is that we have very unrealistic expectations. You can’t go from nothing straight to success without some setbacks. If you want to be really successful, you have to try a lot of things. Some will work and some won’t. It’s just part of the game. Accept it and move on.
One of my mentors said something to me once that I’ll never forget: “To be successful you have to get it right 51% of the time.” If you hit more than you miss, you’ll make it. Only a fool (or a perfectionist) thinks it’s possible to win every single battle. The other downside of thinking this way, is that you might not want to try something unless you’re 100% you’re going to succeed. This is a really bad habit, because it will stop you from trying new things and growing.
What Are Your Priorities?
Think about this for a second: what’s the one thing you could do this week that will put you significantly closer to your goal? There are always two or three things that are more important than everything else. Work on those first, and then, only if you have time left, you can work on the less important things.
Create New Things
A very common treat among perfectionists is trying to make great things even better. We want to improve things that already exist. My mentor once told me, “what if instead of improving your existing website (which already works great) you created a new website, offered a new product or approached new people?” What if you stopped calling prospects that clearly have no interest in working with you and generated a few more leads instead?”
He encouraged me to create new things. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, creating something 100% perfect takes three times as much as creating something 90% perfect. What if you created three amazing things instead of a perfect one?
You also need to consider what “perfect” means. For most perfectionists like me, we have a vision of what perfect looks like, but what if that’s not what your customers want? It would be arrogant to assume that we know what perfection is. Perfection to me might be a website where everything is perfectly aligned, the code is spotless and it renders well in every browser in the world. However, my client might think perfection is an effective website that makes them a lot of money.
Create as many new things as possible. If something breaks, fix it and move on. Ask your customers what’s important to them and deliver just that. Don’t let your perception of what a perfect product should be slow you down and waste your time.
Nobody Is Perfect
If you’re like, “yeah, right, that’s BS! The only way I can compete in my market is by being perfect”, I think you’ll find it refreshing to think how other companies aren’t perfect.
At my favorite restaurant, they take a little longer than I’d like to bring me my food. But the food is awesome, so I keep coming back. Some of BestBuy’s salespeople aren’t very qualified, but they have a great selection of electronics at affordable prices, so I keep buying from them.
Figure out what your core business is and do that great. Everything else you can do “well enough”. For example, we’re an SEO agency. If we weren’t really good at ranking our clients #1 on Google, we’d go out of business, because that’s our core competency. But our reports could be a little better, we could answer emails a little faster and blog a little more. We’re working on it, but whenever I have a free hour, I dedicate it to improving our core competency, not everything else.
Be Nice to Yourself
If you’re a perfectionist, you might now be thinking “this sounds great. I’ll stop being a perfectionist right now!” You might want to go from point A to point B in a straight line, but that’s not how it works. You’ll have setbacks. Try your best. Some days you’ll do great and some days not so much. Acknowledge that fact, let go and move on.
Remember: you only need to win 51% of the time. Good luck!