The Peril (and Paralysis) of Perfection

In my soon to be published book, Do Business Better, I outline the peril of perfection.  

While perfection is an admirable goal for our personal and business pursuits, it’s oftentimes not practical, not attainable, and certainly not profitable.  I advise businesses and individuals to strive for daily improvement but avoid perfection obsession.  

What Perfect Is 

Perfect means without flaws, defects, or shortcomings.  Sound like anyone you know?    Businesses are owned and staffed by humans.  Businesses profit by serving humans.  There is no such thing as a human without flaws, defects, or shortcomings.  That’s why better is a more practical objective than perfect.  

Perfect Isn’t Profitable 

If you wait until your product is perfect, you’ll never sell any product.  That’s why we receive recall notices for our cars. Car makers sell automobiles before they’re perfect.  

Lexus had an advertising slogan touting “the relentless pursuit of perfection.”  They never claimed their cars WERE perfect.  They just claimed they were “pursuing” it.  Certainly, Lexus makes a nice automobile.  But management doesn’t hold cars in the factory til they’re perfect or they’d be bankrupt.  Same goes for your company.  

Perfection Is Unattainable 

You might tell me your daughter received a perfect test score.  Okay. Perfect scores are attainable.  In scholastics.  There are vast differences between business and academia.  Don’t believe me?  Take your daughter’s test score and turn it into a business then get back with me.  

Lack Of Perfection Doesn’t Equal Lack Of Performance 

My Nissan Maxima isn’t perfect.  Heck, Nissan doesn’t even pursueperfection!  Their advertising touts “innovation that excites.”  Yet, my Nissan performs remarkably well, despite it’s imperfections. Incidentally, it’s not that exciting either, contrary to it’s marketing.  

You can be amazingly successful selling good products that perform.  The marketplace doesn’t even expect perfect.  Because almost nothing is.  

Look at swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.  Winner of 28 medals, 23 of which are gold.  Michael Phelps could analyze his gold medal performances and point out flaws.  Maybe his turns were less fluid than ideal or his dive entry angle was off a smidge.  Yet his slightly imperfect performance crushed the competition.  

Perfection Paralysis 

Being self- critical is a good thing. Until you use flaws as excuses for not performing at all.  This is what I call perfection paralysis — the inability to complete objectives because they’re not perfect.  
By all means, strive for constant improvement.  But if you wait until you, your product, and your business are perfect, you’ll die before you ever turn a nickel.  As I always say, completed drives revenue, perfect drives you crazy!” 

Damian Mason is a self -made businessman, speaker, writer, and recovering perfectionist.  Find him at 

Angie Carel