Perfecting the Art of Being Imperfect

by Mark on February 8, 2010 · 10 comments

Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m a perfectaholic. As long as I can remember, I’ve been a perfectionist. I’m not sure whether it’s nature or nurture. Was I born this way? Was I somehow conditioned to be this way? It doesn’t really matter. It is what it is, and I have to deal with it.

Many of you might not recognize it for the disadvantage that it is. You might look at someone who is a perfectionist and think that he or she just has really high standards. If that was all there was to it, it wouldn’t be a problem. Part of it actually stems from a fear of being imperfect.

Sometimes it drives perfectionists to work on perfecting something that isn’t really worth perfecting. Other times it causes perfectionists to procrastinate. If we don’t know how to do something, for example, then there is a good chance that we won’t do it perfectly, so we just put it off. I think my perfectionism and my tendency to procrastinate are inextricably linked.

Perfectionism isn’t only a problem with perfectionists

I think we all have a problem with perfectionism. It is a matter of degrees. If you have a fear of failure, then you essentially have a problem with perfectionism. The problem is that success and failure are inextricably linked. It is impossible to really succeed without failing. As I mentioned in my post Put Your Dream into Action, if you want to be successful, then you need to Fail. A lot.

It may sound strange, but my mission is to fail much more than I have in the past. Failure is a direct and unavoidable result of taking action, and action is a very necessary ingredient in becoming successful. Thomas Edison was one of the most successful inventors in history. He did it by being one of the biggest failures in history. Ty Cobb has the highest career batting average in Major League Baseball history, but he failed to get a hit about 63% of the time.

The Formula for Success

Here is a common sense formula that you should keep in mind:

Expected Number of Successful Outcomes = Probability of Success X Number of Attempts

If you call heads on 10 coin flips, you would expect 5 successful outcomes (i.e. Expected Number of Successful Outcomes = 50% X 10). If Ty Cobb went to bat 100 times, he would expect to get about 37 hits, which is equal to his batting average multiplied by 100 at bats. Unfortunately, we don’t always know the probability of success. Top salespeople often do know their probability of success. They measure things like the percentage of prospects that they close successfully, and then they can get a good idea of how many prospects that they need to meet with to meet their sales goals.

The Secret of Success that You Might not Know about

We can increase the expected number of successful outcomes by increasing either the probability of success or the number of attempts, but there is one secret of success that my mind refused to accept for a long time.  The number of attempts that you make is generally more important than the probability of success.

For the longest time, I wasted most of my efforts on focusing on improving my probability of success. The problem is that it is usually much easier to increase your number of attempts than it is to increase your probability of success. The guy at the bar who acts like an idiot but hits on large numbers of women will go home with a lot of women. Percentagewise, the number might be low, but he will still have a high number of successful outcomes (i.e. he will get laid a lot).

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t spend any time trying to increase your probability of success. It just means that you will quite often be much better off by taking action sooner rather than later. Then improve as you go along. I don’t know much about blogging, but I have decided to stop worrying about it. I know that I will have failures. Not all my posts will be good. Not everyone will like what I write. The formatting of my website needs work.

My motto since I started this blog has been “Go with it.” Sure, I will have my failures, but I’m just going to go with it.  It’s much more fun that way.

You know, Bill. There’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years. Sometimes you gotta say, “What the fuck. Make your move.”
– Joel Goodson, Risky Business


Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: