Are You Making The Perfect Mistake?

Are you suffering from Perfection Paralysis?

If you’re like me, you know the pain, suffering and paralysis that comes from wanting something to be perfect before you let others see it. You'll have experienced the anxiety of deadlines (or become an expert at negotiating extensions!). Are you aware of the stress you cause your team members, family and friends? You may still think your cause is noble – that the quest for perfection excuses your tardiness. But you are probably wrong.

There is a sign I keep in my office. I first saw it stuck above a doorway at Facebook’s HQ in 2011, when we were about to launch our leadership & team development firm, Mission Group, and it made a big impact on me.

The sign simply says: “Done is better than perfect.”

Now, I don’t actually believe that sign! Perfect would obviously be better… if it existed. But perfection is rarely necessary or appropriate (in this life). Done really well is better than not done because you’re waiting for unachievable perfection.

Inaction excused by the pursuit of perfection is still just an excuse.

Ask yourself, with brutal honesty: Are you procrastinating in the name of perfection?

But why do perfectly capable people end up paralyzed by perfection? It comes down to a matter of trust. Yes, trust.

We teach teams the importance of building vulnerability-based trust. We quote research that shows that when we admit our weaknesses and failings to our colleagues, they actually trust us more! And yet we’re still reluctant to show our beta versions of an article/report/proposal/strategy. We’re afraid to be that vulnerable - even to ourselves.

(Don’t get me wrong: I love excellence. One of my future articles will address the “Quest for Excellence” and the willingness to pay the price for extraordinary results. But each of us needs to be honest with ourselves and our team members about why we’re holding back.)

Next time you are feeling the effects of Perfection Paralysis, I challenge you to use the Power of Beta to put you on the path to action.

Release the beta version of your next task and get your colleagues and friends to give you input that will make it better, maybe even excellent. But not perfect.

Don't be afraid that people will realize you're not perfect - they know this already!

Beta means being able to change or improve things later. This knowledge can get you moving quicker. Give yourself permission to proceed. This approach allowed us to create a corporate identity and develop a website without worrying about perfection on Day One. We knew we could get it done to a good or even great standard and then make it better over time.

So, stop making the Perfect Mistake that may be harming your career and relationships. Make things better with the Beta Cure.


Co-founder of training firm, Mission International Ltd, Justin is a sought after coach, teacher and trainer. Justin delivers interactive workshops globally for corporate and not-for-profit organizations. This includes team development, leadership and communications training for Europe's best business school, HEC Paris, Invesco and VMware.

He has collaborated on significant published research in the field of human systems. Justin counsels with senior executives at organizations including the ...

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