Strive for excellence, not perfection

February 26, 2017

Strive for excellence, not perfection

Don’t try to be perfect. Try to be interesting.” (Seth Godin) 


Perfect: Entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings. Accurate, exact, or correct in every detail. 

Perfection: The state or quality of being or becoming perfect.  

Perfectionism: A personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less. 

Excellent: Possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good. 

Excellence: The quality of being outstanding or extremely good.  


Trying to achieve perfection in aspects of your work life is an ambitious goal. Certainly our agencies would appreciate it if we were flawless in all of our work; and our clients would nod their heads and say "well done"; but what would be the cost of pursuing perfection and is that pursuit worth it (or even necessary)? 

Human beings are naturally-flawed creatures. We live a continuous cycle of making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and improving. Rarely could a person reach perfection in any one thing (let alone a range of things) and yet some people drive themselves relentlessly toward this goal. 

Even if we did manage to achieve a state of perfection, sustaining it indefinitely would be nigh-on impossible (ask any top sports person). This retrograding is supported by the "Law of Disorder" which (loosely summarised) says that everything - no matter how perfect it may at one time be - will gradually decline into disorder. 

The pursuit of perfection may come at both a personal cost (to physical health and mental well-being), and also at a cost to your agency (where team dynamics and culture can be affected). Whilst you may be wired to whip yourself toward a state of perfection, your colleagues (including your direct reports) are most likely not wired in the same way; and it is neither fair nor reasonable to place unattainable expectations onto your team. 

Whilst perfectionism may seem to be an admirable trait on the surface, it has no place in agency life. The work we do in agencies is never required to be 'perfect’; the work is, however, required to be correct, complete, creative, good value for money, innovative, strategic, on brief, on time, and on budget. 

Your energy and effort will serve you far better if you strive for 'excellence' rather than perfection. Excellence ('the quality of being outstanding or extremely good') is both realistic and attainable. It is a journey rather than a destination, and something that could and should filter through every conversation you have, and every deliverable you supply. It can become a goal for every single person in your agency, and - if incorporated into your agency's mission statement - can help create a USP (unique selling proposition) to set your agency apart from your competitors. 



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