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Perfection is a Low Standard

Perfectionists always fail but there is a better way.
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Conventional wisdom says that striving for perfection is the best way to succeed. I disagree.

Perfection is a concept that bears no resemblance to reality. Because it is unattainable, those who seek it are doomed to disappointment.

The quest for perfection forces your attention onto minor details that don't really matter. You "sweat the small stuff" but "miss the big picture."

Perfectionists are forever judging people and finding them wanting. As a result, they make both themselves and those around them miserable.

Because they're seeking the impossible, perfectionists give up quickly. And on those rare occasions when they do accomplish something, they can't enjoy it.

Because it's not perfect.

That's why perfect is a low standard. People who strive for it are simply giving themselves an excuse to fail.

A Higher Standard

What's a higher standard than perfect? Actually there are two: "good enough," and "outstanding."

There are many elements of life and work where "good enough" is, well..., good enough to get the job done.

Improving things that are "good enough" produces diminishing returns. For example, why have a spotlessly clean desk when you're not making the important calls?

There are other elements of life and work where you want to be "outstanding"--which means standing above the crowd.

The only way to be "outstanding" is to work on what's essential, not to achieve perfection, but to achieve your goals.

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IMAGE: Jupiter Images/Getty
Last updated: Apr 17, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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