Theoretically Perfect

What’s worth more – a thousand dollars, or the promise of a million dollars?

A lot of that depends on the reliability and timeliness of the promise, but right this second, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The thing is, we usually get that when we’re on the receiving end. If you’re hungry, and someone says, “I can make you a PB&J sandwich in 30 seconds or a steak dinner in 60 minutes,” it’s easy to pick the sandwich.

It’s a lot harder when you’re the one delivering, though. Let me paint you a picture: You’re working on a project for someone – a client, a friend, doesn’t matter – and you have a lot of pride in your work. You value your reputation, your work ethic, and the respect that comes from a job well done. You won’t be satisfied with B+ work, no way! It’s got to be perfect. So you keep at it, days turning into weeks, until you finally hate the thing you were so happy to begin.

Ever happen to you?

I’ve heard that story a thousand times. You want to do something and you don’t want to half-ass it or phone it in, so you become obsessed with it being perfect. But the marginal benefit of perfection is really, really low. If you got 95% there in a day and it took three more weeks to get it to 99%, then you wasted three weeks. You should have just delivered at the end of that first day, because 21 projects at 95% are way better than one project at 99%.

Plus, that last five percent is often subjective as heck. You think it’s only 95% because you’re a perfectionist who knows the subject so well you spot every detail from a mile away. For the person in receipt, it’s a miracle already!

And true perfection isn’t an attainable goal. You’ll spend the rest of you life on a project if you want it “perfect.” What you want to aim for is “deliverable.”

You shouldn’t half-ass it. But there’s a lot of wiggle room between 50% and 100%! And if given the choice between “pretty darned good, today” and “theoretically perfect, but never,” you can guess which one anyone with sense will pick. You can always revisit later, you can always revise if someone asks for a specific detail, and you can always improve the next iteration. But just ship the dang thing already!

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