Perfection is the Enemy of the Very Good

Perfection is what many of us are striving for. Coaches and athletes strive to play the perfect game. Business executives and politicians strive to negotiate the perfect deal. Adults with children strive to be the perfect parents. The list goes on and on.

Striving for perfection is commendable… to a point. We can all get better at everything we do. Continuous self-improvement is one of Stephen Covey’s famous “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

But striving for perfection and refusing to accept anything less than that outcome are two totally different things. Few if any of us ever achieve perfection in anything we do. There is no such thing as the perfect boss, employee, parent or child.

Is it any wonder then why so many people are so stressed out?

I would submit to you that “perfection” is the enemy of the “very good” in virtually every facet of business, and even society as a whole.

I have no research to back this up other than my own experience, but I believe strongly that whatever time, effort, energy, and resources needed to get from 0%-95%, that same amount of time, effort, energy, and resources will be required to get from 95% to 100%.

There are very few careers which require a legitimate pursuit of a perfect outcome. If you’re packing parachutes or practicing medicine, you can certainly argue the point that perfection is a worthy goal. Whatever effort and resources are required to guarantee 100% that a parachute will open when it’s supposed to, or that the correct medications and treatment required to achieve a healthy outcome for a patient are delivered 100% of the time makes perfect sense.

The fact is, however, most of us are engaged in careers and activities that don’t involve life or death situations. As an employee at any level in a company, the most common negative outcome to any decision we make is that it will cost the company money. If we make these kinds of decisions often enough, we may be asked to make them at another company.

I’ve been in media sales and management for virtually my entire adult life. Like most everyone, my goal is to do the best job I can for my company, my co-workers and my customers, without whom we have no business. With all that needs to be accomplished, how can it possibly make sense to double the time, energy and resources required to reach that virtually impossible goal of 100%?

I propose that 95% isn’t just “very good,” I believe 95% is “GREAT,” and should be the goal in virtually everything we do unless we determine that a 100% outcome is absolutely necessary. (Maybe if you’re in Accounting you should shoot for 99%). We’ll accomplish potentially TWICE as much as our perfectionist friends, co-workers, and competitors, and we’ll do it at a “very high” level.

Moreover, with increased accomplishment comes reduced stress and increased self-esteem. Our relationships improve because we’re focused on what’s important, i.e. family, faith and continuous self-improvement, instead of constantly worrying about a mistake we made, or a project that wasn’t absolutely perfect.

If we accept that 95% isn’t just “very good,” but “great,” we’ll accomplish a lot more and we’ll all be a lot happier. Sounds good to me.

Bob Bugle's career spans 25 years in commercial advertising sales and management including Radio (Pittsburgh-Hearst Corp.) and Cable Television (Pittsburgh and Baltimore-AT&T, Comcast). For the past 13 years, Mr. Bugle has assisted businesses and Church-related organizations in their efforts to market to the Catholic/faith based community via ad placements in faith based media including national and local Print, Digital and Radio, as well as select commercial media including Outdoor, Transit, Cable Television and national/local Print (Baltimore-Cathedral Foundation), and since 2009 expanded to include healthcare recruitment advertising (George Washington University Medical Center) as the owner/founder of Bugle Media Services. Personal: Married for 38 years, Bob and Bobbie Bugle have two children, Stephanie and Cliff and live in Forest Hill, Maryland. Bob is a graduate of Duquesne University, is past President of the Pittsburgh Radio & Television Club (renamed Media Association of Pittsburgh), is an active member of the Knights of Columbus, Chairs the Finance Committee of St Margaret’s Parish in Bel Air, MD and has presented at numerous national and regional conferences for the Radio Advertising Bureau, Cable Television Advertising Bureau and the Catholic Press Association. Hobbies include golf, gardening and Civil War reenacting.