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Striving for Perfection Can Be a Waste of Time, Strive for Excellence Instead
"The key to happiness is letting go of that idea of perfection,” wrote Debra Messing. That doesn’t mean mediocrity is the solution. But in business, perfection is often neither rewarded nor required.
Excellence is not the same as perfection. Perfection is more. It is absolute in that nothing and no one is better. Think of an Olympic gold medalist, a Michelin-star chef, or a top-ranked tennis player. The bar is so high that anything short of perfect is deemed inadequate.
Most of the time, despite your best efforts, there is a good chance that you will always chase perfection but never catch it. Even if you do, somebody will eventually surpass you. However, it may be worth it if the reward is big enough.
In business, usually, nothing is perfect. And it doesn't need to be. What's far more crucial is that your products and services are better than those of your competitors. They don't need to be absolutely the best (perfect) but comparatively better (excellent).
While this may sound like splitting hairs, the distinction between perfection and excellence has profound business implications.
EXCEL AT WHAT YOU DO
Most markets are highly dynamic, with new competitors constantly entering with new ideas, better products and services, or lower prices.
In such an environment, perfectionists often struggle to keep up because the goalpost — the definition of what perfect constitutes — always changes depending on your competitors' actions, customer preferences, legal requirements, or technological advances like generative AI.
Dealing with this dynamism, in addition to the usual daily issues like staff turnover and cost increases, can be challenging.
What helped me are two essential insights I learned early on:
Don't waste your time striving for perfection. Unless your profession rewards perfection, chasing it will set you up for disappointment and frustration because most customers don't want to pay for perfection, nor can they tell the difference between something perfect and something a little less than perfect. Often, only you would know the difference.
Excel at what you do by trying to do your job a little bit better every time.
Always do your best — the effort you put into your work often makes the difference between excellence and mediocrity.
Improve gradually and consistently — striving for excellence is a mindset.
Embrace imperfection — it will give you happiness.
Running a business is like being on a journey where you never reach your destination because the itinerary quickly adjusts to what's happening around you.
New trends and sudden changes in tastes and styles, combined with technological advances and economic troubles, can turn the best plan upside down.
A mindset striving for excellence will keep you and your business ahead while also letting you enjoy the journey.
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