The Perfectionist Problem

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“Perfect is the enemy of good”


Letting Go of "Perfection"

"Eighty percent is perfect," said the speaker at the front of the auditorium.

“But that doesn’t make sense!” A woman in the audience was handed a mic, “I insist that my staff dot every i and cross every t. We need to ensure the highest possible quality for our work, all the time.”

“Well,” said the man on the panel at the front of the standing-room-only crowd, “your business will die.”

This was at a conference I attended several years ago and the panel was made up of national experts in business development. The discussion was about the rough times being had in media organizations. Social Media – twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others were devouring traditional media outlets’ customers and profits.

The expert went on, “You need to release at 80%.”

“If people before you hadn’t released at 80 percent, we would never have television, or radio, or movies or the cell phone. Think of all the dropped calls you experienced in the early days of mobile technology. The business cycle demands 80 percent. The remaining 20 percent works itself out in the market.”

8 Reasons

You can wait forever for perfect to arrive if you let yourself. Let go at "good enough" and work from there.

The Anti-Perfectionist: Perfect is the Enemy of Good

This attitude of anti-perfectionism can be applied to all fields - except for maybe heart surgeons and the like- and I could TOTALLY relate to the woman in the audience’s shock at the “80%” rule. I used to have a perfectionist streak in me, especially early in my career, and women more than men tend let perfectionism hold them back.

A lot of professional to want everything to be perfect so that they can be 100% sure of the outcome. The problem here is a confidence gap. Think about it. I’m sure you have heard that statistic that women won’t apply to a position unless they fulfill all of the requirements in the job posting whereas many men will apply to the same position when they’ve only met 50% of the requirements. A lot of women feel they have to be perfect to succeed and have to be working at 100% in order to earn their place at the table.

So, perfectionism can make us constantly feel like a project isn’t ready, “Just a few more tweaks! I need to reread it again!” This slows things down, increases anxiety and can make it look like you aren’t confident enough in your work (and you may not be!).

Even worse, this perfectionism can make you feel like “I’m not ready. I just need to put in a few more years in this position,” or “ I’ll wait for someone else to pass the baton to me,” instead of going for what you want on your own accord.

"Perfection is a mirage in the desert of our lack of confidence."

The 80 Percent Rule

Here is where the 80 Percent Rule comes into play.

I use the 80 percent rule in my life all the time. When I think that something is 80% ready, I let it go forward. I don’t sit on my hands and wait until I’ve triple checked everything and I feel 100% ready.

Because, let’s face it – we rarely feel 100% ready for something and I’m pretty sure perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection is a mirage in the desert of our lack of confidence.

When you’re 80 percent ready, you’re ready.

This isn’t going to be painless. At first, you’ll feel the anxiety and likely get unwelcome feedback. But keep going forward. Take the constructive feedback, and leave the rest. You can handle it.

The remaining 20% is left up to forces out of your control – and that is truly being alive.

What in your life is 80 percent ready for release?


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