A Brilliant Brilliance Nugget: The Paralysis of Perfection

Correct me if I am wrong: Somewhere in your past – and in mine – someone told you whatever you do must be “perfect.” That “someone” was probably several people: Your parents, teachers, and professors.

Do it right the first time, then you don’t have to redo it!” they said.

It got ingrained in our minds. We became “perfectionists.”

I was proud of it even – until I woke up to its “dark side.”

The advice was well-meant and partially correct. Of course, we need to strive to do an excellent job with what we tackle.

Yet, there are deep flaws in this teaching.

  1. The advice assumes that there is a “perfect.” Yet, that is a fallacy. We can continuously improve and make things better.
  2. The teaching stems from the belief that it is better to make it “perfect” (as good as you can make it) in round 1. Yet, “agile” development methods suggest otherwise. For example, if you want to build a mode of transportation, you might create a scooter first, then a motorcycle, then a car, a race car, a rocket. You make the mode of transportation more and more capable – yet, you have a functioning vehicle all along. Books often have more than one edition. Courses can and need to be improved.
  3. It is a great excuse not to tackle the project at all. Procrastination often stems from perfectionism.
  4. Here’s the kicker: Perfectionism is not extraordinary. It stems from fear of criticism and not being good enough (Ouch, I know!).
  5. There are a few exceptions to this, such as getting the O-rings right on the Space Shuttle!


Perfectionism is one of the most significant barriers to your brilliance having the impact it could have. It causes us to be stuck.

I invite you to replace “perfect” with “excellent” – and then go for it!

I’m Curious

Where are you stuck? When will you let go of perfection and let your brilliance shine?

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