Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Case For and Against Perfectionism

I go back and forth on the wisdom of aiming for perfection versus aiming for the best work that can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

In an attempt to gain some clarity on where I stand, I thought I'd make the case for both:

The Case for Perfectionism: There's too much stuff out there: too much content, too many products. The last thing we should do is contribute to the burying of the excellent amid the mediocre. Another reason to strive for excellence: We all want to feel special. Why produce just the easily duplicable or exceedable?

The Case for Time-Effectiveness: Few of us, even if we spend huge amounts of time, have the talent to create something truly great. Better to aim for the sweet spot: What will, for a particular task, strike the ideal balance between quality and time-expended? That's a more attainable goal.

I guess my conclusion is this: If you feel that if you took the time, you could create something that would be appreciated as clearly superior, it may be worth striving for perfection. But if you likely lack that potential, you may be wiser to aim for the sweet spot of time-effectiveness.

But then there's the matter of motivation. I delude myself into thinking that if I took lots of time, I could, for example, write the definitive book on why education is America's most overrated product and what we should do about it. But I lack the patience and the discipline to stay focused on writing such a book--To avoid being torn apart by the higher education establishment would require abundant, air-tight documentation. It's more fun to dabble around--for example, writing this blog.

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