Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

–  Voltaire “La Bégueule”

 Deep (or not so deep) within the hearts of many entrepreneurs lies the perfectionist.  The one who is constantly striving to get it right.  To make it better.  To seek . . . perfection.

 Often, it is why we become entrepreneurs in the first place: we can’t stand to work for the other guy when we can see better ways of doing it, but don’t have the power to make changes.

  But this quest for perfection can lead to and endless tinkering with processes that are already good enough, to the exclusion of actually doing the work.  We can spend an inordinate amount of time getting from 96% right to 99% right, without any real increase in revenues.

 Worse yet, we don’t actually do the task at 96% while we tinker.  We don’t hit “send” on the email campaign.  We delay meetings.  We don’t schedule speaking engagements .  We delay sales calls.  A product launch sits on the desk.  All while we work to perfect something that would have worked if we had done it.

 When perfect keeps us from executing a plan that was good enough to work, perfect has become the enemy.

 My friend and fellow MasterMind participant Matt Stocking brought this to my attention this week.  Matt, who owns ColorHammer, said he had a great month of sales, because he stopped tinkering with a process that was 96% right and just focused on executing the plan.  The plan was good.  The plan worked.  The 4% that was driving him crazy was stuff his customers would never notice or miss.  By stopping thinking and wrestling and worrying over perfection, and just concentrating on executing a good enough process, he not only had his best sales month ever – he also had one of his least stressful months.

 My son, Henry, is an artist and a musician.  We talked this weekend about putting some of his music up on the internet.  He has been waiting until he felt it was perfect.  But perfect is not the point.  He has decided to make one new piece of music per week, and put it up there.  If he sticks with it, he will have 52 pieces of music on his website by the end of the year.  The music may not be perfect, but it will be good enough: he already is a talented guy.  And making 52 pieces of music will make him better all by itself.  He could wait 52 weeks, make all that music in private, and then put up his best piece next year, but how would anyone find him or hire him in the meantime?  They won’t.  Perfect would be the enemy of good enough.  Don’t wait for perfect – get good enough out there and join the conversation.

This is not to say we can rest on our laurels and stop innovating.  The key attribute of small business – the one that allows us to compete with the megacorporation – is agility.  We must be able to adapt to changing circumstances.  There is, however, no end to things to improve.  No end to new ways to engage with our customers.  No end to new developments and innovations to explore.

This month, take that thing you have been worrying to death and just do it.  The doing of it will make you better at it all by itself, while you spend your creative powers elsewhere.  Allow yourself to call good enough – good enough.  Allow yourself to execute the plan that is great but not perfect, and move your mental focus to something else – something new and exciting you can take from 0 to 96.

 Maybe you’ll have your best month ever.


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