Perfection: An Impossible Goal and Dangerous Myth | Chris Pfund

The statistics on failing startups and small businesses are staggering and disheartening, especially if you have entrepreneurial dreams of your own. You may find yourself thinking that if everything goes perfect, you will be on the safe side and you will avoid such a tumultuous fate.

It is no wonder why so many of today’s entrepreneurs adopt this mindset; our culture is obsessed with perfection. We take a million pictures before posting one and then FaceTune it to be flawless. We “edit” our social media to abide by our personal brands and we crucify companies who make a mistake in their marketing. The pull of perfection is everywhere.

Here’s the thing, nothing about building a business is perfect. It’s messy and stressful. Very few things will happen according to plan. More concerning, however, is how badly you might wreck yourself while chasing perfection. Perfectionism, even when temporary, has been linked to a number of mental health conditions (think depression, a severe lack of self-esteem, and anxiety).

Perfectionist vs. Overachiever

You may find yourself thinking, “I’m not a perfectionist. I’m just an overachiever.” You very well could be. But if you find yourself also using logic such as, “I’ll start my business as soon as my product or idea is “perfect,” it’s likely that you’re experiencing a bout of perfectionism and not just high standards.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your product or service to be great. The problem comes in when that logic is continuously holding you back. Nothing is ever perfect, therefore waiting until it is, means waiting forever.

Many people wear their perfectionism as a badge of honor. They feel as though it’s what sets them apart and makes their work great. They feel pride and satisfaction towards their successes and believe that if they let go of their perfectionism, they will become lazy, under-achievers. A bit ironic when you consider recent studies indicated those who suffer from perfectionism are actually performing at lesser rates than those with a healthy attitude towards their abilities.

It makes sense when you consider the aforementioned logic. Why start something when you know you can’t do it perfectly? Such procrastination is one of the most common signs of perfectionism, and letting go of the desire for everything to be perfect helps you accomplish more.

No Room for Perfection in Business

Business is always changing. You have to be willing to give up that perfect idea and adapt it into something that the market currently needs. Attempting to rigidly adhere to a perfect plan will not lead to success. It will most likely lead towards a failing business that refused to pivot when necessary. Why? I’m glad you asked.

A perfect plan, idea, or business, doesn’t account for the million and one challenges your new business is likely to face from the get-go. Furthermore, even if you read every book, article, or blog on the subject of running a business, you’re unlikely to have the knowledge or skills to plan for challenges before they happen.

Besides facing surprises, perfection is subjective, meaning that even if it checks off all of your boxes, it doesn’t mean clients will have the same opinion. Think of your favorite company, product, or service, something you purchased that you deem “perfect.” Now, look up ratings for that product online. Does everyone agree with you? Probably not.

Business relies on competition, and competition exists in the market because each business offers something different, even if only slightly, from the others. Customers may find one product terrible but a similar product incredible, because everyone’s definition of perfect differs.

It’s true, Saying goodbye to what may be a lifetime of perfectionist thinking is easier said than done. But there are steps you can take to ensure that they control you a little less. For example, try adopting an 80/20 rule towards perfection. That means you can spend 80% of your time working on a task to make it perfect, with the remaining 20% open for further improvement.

Don’t get discouraged by these words. They are not meant to make you give up your dream. They are, however, attempting to help you understand that striving, aching, for perfection is an impossible goal and a dangerous myth.

Originally published on on May 16, 2019.