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Tips and Techniques [1401.07]

Perfect Is the Enemy

Starting a personal blog has been on my "someday/maybe" list for years. What was keeping me from actually accomplishing it now? "Perfect is the enemy of good", as my husband Dave teased me the other day. It was so true, I decided to make it the subject of my first post in the "Self Improvement" category.

First, I searched for the quote's originator. As I started to type the phrase into google search, it helpfully suggested the 10 items at the right. I was struck by the appropriateness of the top 4 items in particular. "Perfect" is indeed the enemy of done, progress, and fast.

Then, I looked up the original words from Voltaire, in French: le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. Based on my 5 years of French (which by my reckoning makes me, at my peak, maybe equivalent to a 6-year-old), this seems more like "better is the enemy of good", which actually more accurately describes my affliction. I'm usually not in search of perfection, just "better".
In fact, I've pretty much lived my life by the idea that "good enough is the enemy of excellence". I thrive in environments where excellence is highly valued, which is probably why I enjoy working in start ups. It's also what has given me some modicum of success.

However, "excellence" can be a problem when I'm creating something involving art (and to me everything creative involves art) that I just sort of would like to finish by a certain date. Then the need for "better" is going to win out over the need for "done". It's much easier to live with "good enough" when it involves a real deadline, for example a Halloween costume (not much good after October 31st), or a holiday newsletter (mortifying if it's not at least postmarked before Christmas).

What has been life altering for me has been "Monk", a television series about a brilliant but neurotic detective with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). When I find myself frustratingly stuck obsessing on something, I remember the scene where Monk is taking a test to rejoin the police force. He can't get past the first question because he can't fill in the oval on the answer card perfectly enough, eventually erasing and redrawing it so many times he makes a hole in it.

It's already a week past my goal of uploading this site by New Year's Eve, and I'm still obsessing over the details yet to be worked out (like how to handle comment threads), not to mention all the changes I need to go back and do to all the files because of all the tweaks I've been making.

But I'm finally declaring "good enough" for a first cut, and am posting the darn thing!

Just please excuse the imperfectly filled in ovals!

If you wish to comment on this post, see the companion blogspot entry.

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