I remember writing the draft of my first university essay. It was a new experience of trying to sell myself to others. I thought I had a good grasp over what traits I should accentuate to make myself a desirable candidate - whatever that meant - and after showing not telling how I was a persistent, creative, community-oriented, multi-faceted, passionate student, I used one word to sum up the way I approached my work. I called myself a perfectionist.
Now, while I can't remember anything else that went on during my next meeting with the university guidance counsellor, what is burned into my memory is the big line going through the word 'perfectionist' and the comment that read "this isn't a good thing."
"Perfect is the enemy of good"- Voltaire
Perfectionism is a trap. It strings you along with its promise of achieving an attainable end. It tricks you into thinking that your efforts will bring you to the light at the end of the never-ending tunnel.
The existence of the word makes us believe that such a thing exists while in fact the entropic forces of the universe are doing all that they can to move us towards disorder. All the dance dance revolution machines in their various forms flash us with the word when we do something good but there is a lack of sincerity in their approximation of the good to the perfect.
Ideals are ideals because they exist only outside of reality. They are unattainable conceptions of perfection. They are asymptotes on our graphs of improvement that will never be reached no matter how high up we go.
Waiting for perfection keeps you rooted in the state of pre-action. It's an excuse to avoid doing the thing that we fear the most: failing.
What perfectionists fail to understand is that somehow, better could be worse - that time spent striving for the ideal form of something is merely time wasted.
This series intends to unpack the science of perfection and share the mental models that can help to avoid its siren call. Each issue will explore how we can understand the words of my guidance counsellor and embrace failing faster, learning quicker and doing more.
I'm no expert, only a recovering perfectionist who struggles to recognise when good enough is good enough, but in the words of a programmer (the biggest community of anti-perfectionists): sometimes worse is better.