Excellence Trumps Perfection

A lot of people pride themselves on being perfectionists. It’s a badge they proudly pin to the chest of their master craftsmanship.

I understand the sentiment, and appreciate their sense of responsibility and the pride they take in doing great work. But words matter, and I have come to believe that actual perfectionism is a horizon that perpetually recedes before us. It’s a mirage.

The truth is, we won’t ever achieve lasting perfection because it’s dependent upon circumstances outside of our control. Circumstances that ebb and flow, ideas that shift, styles that weaken, and execution that inevitably we could have done better at some point in the long winding road of creative production. Every design is made up of hundreds of little decisions, each influencing the next in ways we can’t untangle. Attempting to ensure every decision is the best decision will be paralytic.

Plus, often our pursuit of perfection eventually begins to move us laterally. You reach a point in every creative process where new ideas and attempts to better the end product stop propelling it forward and start shifting it side-to-side; this quickly bogs down the project and often leads to frustration for all involved.

Excellence is what we’re after. We can make great things, set our sights on something beautiful up on the horizon and then endeavor to reach it. The path may not always be smooth, and we might move slowly at times, but we can reach a point, look back, and be proud of where the journey has brought us. We can focus on details, commit to thoughtful strategy, and execute our hearts out.

And if we can agree that perfection is impossible, together we can commit to excellence. Then get to work.