Don’t Let Perfect Ruin Good

“The longer I live the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time.”

George Bernard Shaw

There are all kinds of ways to give in to the fear of failure. But of those I’ve known, the cleverest is to desire perfection.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen good projects and new products halted indefinitely while the team leader fixes and re-fixes every problem, fault, and blemish that can be identified by anyone along the way. The nothing-less-than-perfect executive may create for himself a reputation for exactitude, but if he seldom or never gets a project launched, he won’t be around to improve things for long.

The wonderful truth is you can never get it exactly right. Any product or service worth providing will never be perfect so long as it is sold to people whose needs, feelings, beliefs, and desires change. You can produce good things and even great things, but you’ll never get them perfect except insofar as they are perfect for you. And you are not in business to make things perfect for you.

My rule is this: Ready. Fire. Aim.

Ready is first. Ready means spend some time and some serious effort getting the thing right — but don’t expect it to be perfect.

When you get it to good, it’s time to fire. Fire means test-market it. See if it sells as well as you thought it would. See how the buyers like it when they get it.

Only after you have tested your selling proposition in the real market and have given your customers a real chance to respond to your product will you have a reliable idea on how to improve it.

By adopting a ready-fire-aim business philosophy, you give yourself forward momentum, which you need to keep your employees motivated, your marketing targeted, your products honed, and your customers happy.

Take a look at the product-creation/project-development protocol in your business and ask yourself if it could be improved by the ready-fire-aim approach. If so, start the ball rolling.

Do it today.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]
  • Hi Michael,

    I tend to fall into the perfectionism trap too. And I’ve spend considerable amounts of time perfecting products that never saw the day’s light, or never found a single customer.

    After a couple of those experiences I learned about the Ready, Fire, Aim approach, and it surely saved me from a lot of wasted efforts.

    Thanks for bringing that point home again.

    Joe Paz

  • I’m doing a joint venture with someone who could be condidered an anal-retentive obsessive-compulsive worry-wart, ( and, yes, I confess to having gone off half-cocked a few times in the past, but that was in my youth ). Have you any advice for dealing with perfectionists,incrementalists and other nano-planners. I realise there’s fear invloved, although of what I’m not sure. Maybe there’s a pill for this.