October 3, 2007

A Map That's "Good Enough"

I have a map on my wall from about the 17th century (a replica, that is), and here's what I love about it: it was a perfectly useful map in its time, even though it wasn't 100% accurate. I like to keep that in mind when I feel my perfectionism creeping in.

Perfectionism can be a dreadful disease. Although it may not officially kill anybody, it prevents them from living. Life is action -- and perfectionism, when it reaches extremes, prevents people from taking action for fear of not performing perfectly.

Perfection seems like a worthy goal, but this lofty ideal is also its downfall. Unfortunately, perfection, in any field and in all capacities, is not possible. Excellence is possible. Virtuosity is possible. But perfection? Not in this lifetime! Perfectionists fail even before they begin because they are dedicated to accomplishing a goal that cannot be done.

So, what's a perfectionist to do? Well, there are 3 things that may help:

  1. Remember the imperfect map. Ancient maps needed only to get a sailor from one port to another without ramming into the shore. They didn't need to be accurate by inches but by miles. After all, the sailors could look for themselves once they knew they were getting close. When you do something, remember that you are doing it for a specific purpose. As long as the purpose is fulfilled, mission accomplished. Anything beyond that is nice, but unnecessary. Make sure you aren't letting details bog you down that, when looked at from a mission viewpoint, don't actually impact the project.

  2. Love to improvise. Nothing goes according to plan, even with the best plans. Be prepared to make adjustments along the way. So, since you'll be making changes along the way, why not just get started now? The world's greatest masterpieces (some of which come very close to perfection) were not created in a single attempt. Paintings and sculptures are created by "roughing-in" the basic form and then fine-tuning it a little bit at a time. Remember, it's the final product that matters, not the middle product or the fledgeling product. All (near) perfect projects start as absolutely imperfect projects.

  3. Let go. Perfectionism is rooted in self-consciousness and a fear of looking foolish. I know, I've been there. And there's an old joke that may prove useful in this regard: you wouldn't care what people thought of you if you realized how rarely they do. I know, it sounds harsh. But really, everybody else is too busy managing their own lives to pay much attention to yours. So you're free to get out there and take a chance. If you mess up, not many people will notice -- and of the ones that notice, not a single one will remember it a year from now. Then, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue to adjust (remember, you love to improvise now) until you get it right.

Babblermouth is far from perfect. As I look at it, there are many things that I want to fix and so many improvements that can be made to it. Over time, they'll get done. In the past, I might have waited until I had the perfect design before I wrote my first post (and would have, of course, waited until my first post was perfect before posting it). But I made the leap. After all, the point of blogging is to share your ideas with readers -- and that's getting done.

Also at Babblermouth:
Fun With Truisms
Who Are You?
3 Things: Time Management For Scatterbrains

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