On the inside cover of Seth Godin’s book “The Practice,” you’ll find these words:
“Perfectionism has nothing to do with being perfect.”
How often have you heard – or said – some version of the following: “It’s just that I’m a perfectionist, so it takes a long time.” Or “We have high standards, so we need to keep making changes.”
Here’s the thing: Excellence and high standards are wonderful qualities. Anyone worth their marbles knows when something they’re working on just isn’t there yet. Sometimes we need to keep working on a project in a very hands-on sort of way: line editing, cutting the footage, running the data, controlling for a different subset of variables. Sometimes we need to step away and give our subconscious space to work.
But then there’s hiding. That thing we do when we’re not really seeking improvement, but instead looking for a way to keep working on something whose outcome doesn’t really matter, specifically so that we aren’t forced to go work on the real thing – the important thing – that is so important, it might fail, and in so doing, it might make us look bad.
Continued work can be in pursuit of excellence, in pursuit of better, in pursuit of magic.
Continued work can also be a way of hiding, of making sure we don’t expose ourselves to possible failure or ridicule.
Anything worth doing includes the possibility of failure. If you’re still trying to find the magic, keep at it. If you’re hiding, probably best to publish/release and move on to embracing that thing you’re scared of.
And let’s be real: If you’re being honest with yourself, you know exactly which of these two choices you’re facing. We don’t usually lack that discernment. More often we simply lack courage.