Is It Bad Reaching For Perfection?
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 27, 2013
“You shouldn’t shoot for perfection, but try to do the best you can.” – Warren Buffet
I have to own up to this one; sometimes I get depressed because I’m not perfect. There, I said it, whew! I’ve never been perfect, and I doubt anyone else ever has. But I’ve had periods of time where I’ve attained perfection, even if it was only fleeting.
For instance, do you remember those achievement tests we used to take in high school? Back in 11th grade, I got a perfect score on the math exam, and the school counselor was amazed because I was a year behind everyone else in my class in math because I’d come from a school out of state.
Back in the early days when I was just a medical biller, I had a 3-month period where I didn’t have a single rejected claim. Of course things were much different in the early 80′s than they are now, but no one else was perfect, and my output was more than twice that of the person closest to me.
I also had a period of time in my life when I never forgot a phone number I heard once. I remembered every single phone number until I moved into management, and I was 25 when that happened I believe. I moved around a lot, so I’m thinking that bit of perfection was pretty impressive; okay, I was impressed, while others yawned…
None of us likes making mistakes. Luckily, most mistakes are small things that we can fix easily enough. But when someone else notices them, we feel mortified, and our veneer of the belief in our perfection shatters once again. That bit of reality gets smacked in our face, and we don’t like it one bit.
I’m not going to be the guy who says we have to make mistakes so that we can progress. I’m not going to be that guy who talks about all the things we can learn from our mistakes. I’m thinking that we can learn a lot without making mistakes. I’m also the guy who deep down knows that none of us can be perfect, none of our products can be perfect, and the people we work with will never be perfect.
Think of Microsoft for a moment. Most people think Microsoft’s biggest success was in creating an operating system that made computing easy for the masses. I tend to think that their biggest success was in putting out a product that they knew was flawed, that wasn’t close to perfect, that started bringing them in lots of money so they could spend more time making improvements.
At a certain point I know they realized that whatever they did was never going to be perfect, but it was going to be pretty good. But let’s look at them for a minute. Windows 95 was genius; no question about it. Windows Millennium, or Me, was horrendous; what a flop that was. What was good? Windows 2000, which was very stable and what I ran, even though it was more for servers than home computers. Remember XP? These days people look at it lovingly with lament, yet when it was first introduced it was a dog. That is, until the first major update came, and then people fell in love with it. Dare I mention Vista? Weren’t we more happy with Windows 7?
Here’s the point. This clamoring for perfection is a myth; there’s almost no such thing because even Nadia Comăneci couldn’t maintain it. No one can maintain it; almost no one ever has a perfect moment either. Well, that’s not quite true. Everyone has a moment, maybe many, when they feel their life is perfect in some way. That’s something to strive for, those singular moments, and if you can have a lot of those, your life is truly wonderful.
Until then, stop trying to be perfect, stop expecting others to be perfect, and try to do the best you can, like Warren says.