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The Illusion of Perfection

Look at the wall to your left.

Look away.

Now, look back at that same spot on the wall to the left.

The chances are that your body, neck, and retinas were in the exact same position before are pretty much impossible. If you could attach a hyper-precise GPS to every single atom that comprises you, the probability that all those GPS signals align when you look at the same wall both times is preposterously unlikely. So unlikely, in fact, that you have a better chance at winning the lottery several times over.

(Or, as some people weirdly like to point out, having a vending machine crush you. Because somehow, we have statistics for that. *shrugs*)

It’s kind of a weird thing to think about, you know? When you get down to this nitty gritty of a level, perfection is an illusion. Of course, when you zoom out to the practical perspective, you looking at that wall twice is “functionally” perfect. After all, do you really need to look at that same wall in the exact, exact way twice?

So let’s talk about your work.

I sort of get that in the manufacturing world, you want to get it right the first time because physical waste is a real thing. It’s time, it’s money, and it’s a pain in the neck. I’d probably cry, too, if the 1,000,000 widgets I produced turned out to be useless due to a minor defect.

But most of us don’t work in manufacturing. At least, not anymore. While manufacturing certainly exists today, we have the luxury of robotics with fine-grained controls to take care of a lot of that harder stuff for us. Gone are the days of everything having to be done by hand. Ah, the marvels of modern technology.

Still, many of us still treat our work as if we live in the manufacturing world. I’ve watched people pore over every letter on a specific page as if crossing that “t” one more time is going to make all the difference in the world.

Well, friend, I’m sorry, but you’re never going to be perfect.

You’re always going to second guess yourself. You’ll always have at least one critic out there. You’re always going to find that misspelled word or misplaced comma. You’re always going to wonder if you should have used this shade of red instead of that one. You’re always going think that the message could have been communicated better.

Heck, look at the title card for last week’s post. I do all my own graphic design iconography for each of these posts, and I look back at that goat and think, “Wow, that goat looks like utter s***.”

But the reality is that perfection is an illusion.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m telling you not to give it your best. You totally should. But at some point, you’re going to have diminishing gains. If you’re writing a book, chances are that having a fourth editor look it over isn’t going to significantly alter any content. Or if you’re writing a piece of software, the general user probably isn’t going to care about that feature that caters to .001% of your target audience.

Let me tell you two reasons why you need to ship your work today and not put it off until tomorrow.

#1: You’re holding yourself back from moving on. Simply put, if you’re too busy grammar checking your blog post for the thousandth time, you’ll never get to the next blog post. Or the next one. Or the next one.

#2: You don’t know what your audience wants. Again, you can try using the data you have at hand today, but ultimately, you’re not going to get feedback on your work until it gets into the other person’s hands.

Taking a page from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, I want you to go find a piece of paper right now. Write down on it, “I give [your name] permission to…” and fill in the blank with that thing you keep holding back on sharing. And if you want somebody else to give you that permission, I’ll do it.

I, David Hundley, give you permission to publish that book. To play that song you wrote. To share that painting you painted. To write that novel you’ve always been thinking about. To make that video and upload it to YouTube.

I also give you permission to accept that it’ll never be perfect.

May you launch those rockets you’ve been holding close to you for so long. May you breathe that sigh of relief when it finally gets out into the public. May you relish in the fact that it’s finally done.

And may you move onto the next thing so we can have more of your insight in the world.

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