By Paul Kaye
March 13, 2018
Perfection Is Over-Rated
What does it mean to be perfect? The notion of ‘being perfect’ has been weighing on my mind for some time. Working with talent, I often hear people enthusiastically declare, “I just want to be perfect at it.” I think I understand what they are trying to convey; they want to be seen as proficient and thoroughly skilled in a certain area. They want whatever it is they are working on to be complete – they don’t want it to be lacking anything. They want their performance to be without blemish. If I am right and this is what they mean when they say, “I just want to be perfect at it,” then it sounds like a noble crusade. The pursuit of perfection seems to be about ensuring your performance is free from mistake and error – to be whole. Who wouldn’t want that? Apparently I don’t. The more I ponder the merits of perfection the more I am concerned that it is actually a bad thing to desire.
As I have wrestled with my inner thoughts something has begun to emerge for me. The reason perfection sits so awkwardly with me is that perfection isn’t about creating the new or unexpected. It is about conforming to the past. The pursuit of perfection isn’t helping us create; it is actually hindering us and subduing our creativity. The revelation I had is that perfection equals conformity. The moment that we launch ourselves toward finding perfection, we are walking where others have been before. We are saying that in order to be perfect, our performance or our work needs to be compared to the performance or work of others who have come before us. Our performance needs to live up to the ideals that have been bestowed upon us and that we have already chosen to accept as true. The only way for any of us to be declared as perfect is to faultlessly follow the rules imposed by others! That is the very problem with perfection!
Mistakes aren’t our enemy. In fact there is a type of beauty to imperfection. We should be valuing differences and uniqueness in our work rather than ignoring them. It is often the imperfections that people create that elevate them above others. In Japan there is a philosophy called ‘Wabi-Sabi.’ It celebrates the beauty in what’s natural, flaws and all. It teaches us that the cracks and the scratches in things should be embraced. To be successful we must embrace our own imperfections.
Perfection holds us back in so many ways by fostering an environment of control that plays down our individuality and discourages imperfections creeping into our work:
When you’re trying to be perfect, you don’t take risks. Being perfect keeps you stuck within the status quo. It encourages you to only take the steps that live up to other people’s ideas on how success should look. Perfection doesn’t encourage you to take risks as mistakes and mishaps are the antithesis of being perfect. You become so focused on what ‘doing it right’ looks like that you don’t experiment. You don’t test the assumptions that have been made. You don’t create your own path.
When you’re trying to be perfect, you follow the rules. People who change their industry – and the world – have a vision. They have dreamt of a future that only they can see. They are visionary. Following rules and conforming doesn’t help them realize their dream. If you are only operating within established procedures, you will never create something new.
When you’re trying to be perfect, you don’t create. Chasing perfection means doing the same thing the same way again and again. The path to perfection almost seems robotic. You are shut off from seeing what other possibilities may exist. You are blinkered to what could be.
Trying to be perfect stops you from taking risks, demands you follow the rules and banishes creativity. Perfection makes you believe there is only one way – a superior way – to do something. It forces you to squash your own ideas and thoughts in favour of a path that has already been walked.
You need to abandon perfect!
The people who find unrivalled success do so because they find THEIR own way. They disregard what they are supposed to do in favour of what they believe is right. They experiment and test the ideas that have come before them. They take risks and stretch themselves and make many mistakes in the process. Successful people aren’t concerned about being seen as perfect; they want to discover a unique way to win. They don’t conform, they create; and they often achieve the unthinkable. Being perfect is not the path you should aspire to walk. Instead, embrace your imperfections. Do it your way. Do it the way you think makes the most sense and honour what you believe, not what others say is true. Perfection leads to sterile – often robotic – performance. Imperfection allows you the opportunity to create what no-one else can see!
Paul Kaye is Vice President, Product and Talent Development for Rogers in Canada. Paul spends his days working with stations and talent across all formats with a sole focus on helping improve performance and growing the business. Prior to being at Rogers Paul held the role of National Talent Development Director for Newcap Radio and also a Group Programming role in England. Paul is a certified coach and is passionate about helping individuals, teams and organizations reach their greatest potential, which is the fuel behind his other project The Talent Lab. Paul lives in Toronto with his wife, 2 dogs and a cat – life is never quiet! You can reach Paul at [email protected]