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Why Perfection is the Enemy of Progress for Entrepreneurs

Perfection is the enemy of progress & what it means for you
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“Perfection is the enemy of progress” is a famous quote by Winston Churchill, and this quote still holds a lot of meaning today. Other similar quotes have been made by famous philosophers and writers throughout the years, including “ The best is the enemy of the good”- Voltaire, and “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”- Confucius. It seems as if this sentiment has been around for a while, but the pursuit of perfection is still a popular downfall amongst entrepreneurs and professionals alike.

Some of the very best entrepreneurs have experienced their major successes through making mistakes over and over again. Take Richard Branson, for example. While he likes to get things done properly, he is by no means a perfectionist. He has thrown many eccentric ideas at the wall to see what sticks and has experienced many setbacks along the way to his massive entrepreneurship success. While his way of doing things is definitely not for everyone, it is a great example of how you needn’t be a perfectionist to be successful.

The sooner you can shift your mindset away from perfection and instead towards progress, the sooner you’ll start experiencing the results you’ve been waiting for. You’ll also probably be less stressed and enjoy your entrepreneurial journey a lot more!

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the downsides to the struggle towards perfection and how leaning more towards achieving real progress can help both you and your business!

What is perfection?

The dictionary defines ‘perfect’ as “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be”  or “something without fault”.

But the truth is that nothing surrounding us or in our lives is truly perfect. Products, relationships, humans, and machines all have their flaws and faults. So before you start chasing perfection, you may want to think about if perfection is something that even exists in the real world or if it is a construct that lives solely in our minds.

Perfection is also something that can be dramatically disrupted by outside influences and factors which are entirely out of your control. For example, let’s pretend that by the beginning of 2020, you finally got your new restaurant to the level of what you considered ‘perfect’. The next thing you know, the COVID-19 pandemic hits, and the ‘perfect’ business that you have created is not so perfect anymore. In fact, it is less than ideal. This just goes to show that something can be ‘perfect’ one day and be completely flawed the next.

Striving for perfection can prevent you from getting things done

One of the main reasons why perfection should be avoided in the realm of business is because it will hold you back from getting things done. Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are building a website for your business, but you want it to be perfect before you have it go live. While this may seem reasonable enough, it may take you a very long time, with many costly edits, and not to mention the stress, before your website is finally ‘perfect’. In this time, you may have lost potential clients to your competition because you did not have a site up and running.

Sometimes it’s okay to settle for ‘good’ or even ‘great’ instead of ‘perfect’. Changes and additions can always be made at a later stage. If you wait too long to release products, websites, and other offerings, you run the risk of your company and ideas becoming stagnant.

The other major way progress can stunt progression is the thought process; if something is not worth doing, it cannot be done perfectly. If you think this way, think of the following example…if you can’t fit in an hour’s worth of exercise, is it not better to exercise for 10 minutes than to not exercise at all? This can be applied to so many different things in your business!

Perfection is subjective

What really is perfection anyway?

If you had to describe the perfect person, it may be a very different description from the description your friends would give. The same goes for the perfect day, the perfect meal, the perfect customer service, the perfect product, the perfect website, etc. The list goes on.

Perfection looks different for every person, and that is why it is impossible to achieve ‘perfect’ ideals and results. Your idea of perfection may be very different to the person next to you. Because of trends and other market influences, the idea of ‘perfect’ may also change as time progresses. So you may find yourself on this wild goose chase, trying to find a level of perfection that simply does not exist.

The truth is, when it comes to entrepreneurship and business, there are very few things that can ever be perfect.

Once you’ve achieved perfection, then what?

Perfection signifies that it is the top tier, the end result. So what happens when you feel that you have reached this level? Can you finally relax? Do you stop progressing? Do you stress trying to maintain the pinnacle of perfection that you have created?

Perfection has a sort of stagnancy about it, as it is an immobile idea, and this does not bode well for the ever-changing and flowing world of business.

Adopting a mindset of progression is far more helpful as you can focus on slowly improving, with no definitive pinnacle in sight, just a mission to be better at what you do each and every day. Because this is far more attainable than the pursuit of perfection, you’ll improve your business without as much stress and may even continue improving it past the point of what you would have deemed as ‘perfection’.

How do I make the most of this philosophy as a business owner?

It’s all good and well to understand that progress may get you further than perfection ever will, but how do you adopt this mindset in your everyday life?

  • Surround yourself with the right people – If you are surrounded by perfectionists, you are more than likely going to adopt the same mindset as them and struggle towards perfection. It is important that you closely examine the people around you that you have within the business sphere and ascertain whether they strive towards progress or the idea of perfection.
  • Create small, achievable goals – To get the progress ball rolling, it’s a good idea to start creating small, achievable goals for yourself and your team. These goals should also have deadlines so that progress is being made in a timely manner and that things are getting done!
  • Always learn more – Progress requires you always to be learning and expanding your mind. Take a keen interest in what is happening around you, and keep learning from those around you as well as through professional learning materials.
  • Be adaptable – Part of the progression journey is about flexibility and adaptability. You need to be open to changing your mind about certain things and making use of new information as it comes to you. We live in an ever-changing business environment and need to adapt in order to survive.
  • Reset your expectations – While you should still have high expectations for yourself and your business, you should perhaps not have goals to be perfect, but rather have goals for your business to be resilient, adaptable, creative, innovative, exciting, etc. Using different words to describe your goals will help readjust your mindset.

How to make the most of mistakes

Mistakes are bound to happen! They can happen often or every once in a while. But what you should realise is that mistakes can truly be a blessing in disguise. How you react to your mistakes is what truly counts. Ways in which you can make the most of mistakes include:

  • Don’t be hard on yourself – the way that you speak to yourself has a massive impact on your mindset, so it is very important that you are not heavily critical of yourself (or others) when mistakes are made. The sooner you accept that mistakes are simply a part of life, the sooner you’ll be able to start using these mistakes to your advantage.
  • Analyse what went wrong – Look at the situation and analyse what went wrong to result in the mistake being made. Sometimes the answer is not as obvious as you may think.
  • Fix the damages – If something is broken, you’ll need to fix it in order to move forward. For example, if a client’s order was misplaced, ensure that the client gets their product before you start changing your entire supply chain.
  • Brainstorm as to how mistakes can be avoided in the future – Now that you know what went wrong, it’s time to think about how things can be done in the future. Think out of the box and be innovative and creative when coming up with new solutions and concepts.

You can use the above steps to analyse others’ mistakes. This will help you practice how you deal with mistakes and also help shift the mindset that you have surrounding mistakes. You may also be able to find innovative solutions to others’ problems.

Are there any aspects of business in which you can strive for perfection?

When it comes to business, there are very few things that will ever be perfect, and like we have aforementioned, perfection is also quite subjective. For this example, let’s replace ‘perfection’ with ‘excellence’. There are a few areas of your business in which excellence should be prioritised. And this is mostly regarding your bookkeeping and taxing. When it comes to your account, there should be very little room for error. Mistakes can be costly, especially those that have got to do with tax.

Accounting and bookkeeping are very measurable practices. Either it’s correct, or it’s not. Either your books balance, or they don’t. You’ve either paid the right amount of tax, or you haven’t. It is very important for this area of your business to be as near perfect as possible, and this is why many entrepreneurs make use of professional bookkeepers and accountants.

The benefits of prioritising progress over perfection

  • More relaxed, stress-free working environment
  • Not as critical on yourself and others when mistakes are made
  • Things get done sooner, as ideas, products, and offerings are rolled out
  • Because things are happening faster, your potential customers may find you before they find your competitors
  • Achievement of realistic goals
  • Finding creative solutions to problems
  • Your business becomes more authentic, resilient, and adaptable
  • Make PROGRESS
  • Better prepared for when unexpected changes and challenges occur

Gain momentum for your business: the progression mindset

Focusing on progression helps give your business momentum and move it forward. When you aren’t wasting time obsessing over the little things, projects get done, and deadlines are met! One of the most important things about the progression mindset is that you focus on the bigger picture and see things from a broader perspective.

While details can be very important at times, they can often hinder you from making the progress that your business needs to make at the time.

Share this philosophy with your colleagues

It is incredibly important that everyone who is working with you and for you is on the same page and has a similar mindset. If you are the type of boss that has always strived for perfection, prioritising progress may take some getting used to. But it will definitely be easier when your team is there to back you up and help you get things done, as this creates a collective mindset and environment.

Ensure that your entire team knows about your shift in mindset and the shift in your business’s priorities and goals.

Do not let the pursuit of perfection become the enemy of your business’s progress! Always be aware of your business priorities and whether they are moving you forward or holding you back! 

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