Perfectionism vs. Success

“Bob,” my partners and business associates would often say to me, “you are a great detail guy. We love your reports. We can always count on you to strive for perfection.”

I wore those words the way a proud war veteran wears his medals. But the truth is, those “medals” were a millstone around my neck and were slowing me down. My perfectionism was a time-wasting, money-losing goal killer that probably doubled the time it took me to be successful.

My “Aha!” moment came 10 years ago. A client had hired me to take charge of negotiating a three-year, $10,000,000 contract with a healthcare provider. It took four months, eight meetings with principals, 12 revisions of the contract, endless phone calls, and hundreds of documents and data reviews.

It was perfect and everyone was satisfied. All parties involved signed the contract. I was exhausted yet excited and thrilled that the ordeal was over… and would not begin again for another three years.

But a mere 60 days after signing the contract, the service provider notified my client that they were exercising the “out clause” – two sentences (signed off on by our attorneys) that allowed them to cancel. Turns out there were a few important details that hadn’t been covered.

Unbelievable as it was, we had to re-negotiate.

I was again asked to take charge. This time, I informed everyone involved that we would have only one meeting for resolution. They were to come prepared to compromise and to make a decision. They did, and a new contract was quickly written and signed.

That’s when I realized that this is the way I should have handled the negotiation from the beginning. I should have aimed for “good” and then aimed for “better” once we were sure we had the essence of the contract on paper. It would have been far more productive than wasting everyone’s time with my need to perfect every little detail.

Is perfectionism keeping you from accomplishing your goals?

Have you ever said something like:

“This report has to be perfect before I turn it in.”


“My presentation has to be perfect before I meet with the client.”

Problem is, perfection is impossible. And continuously striving for it can stall you – keep you from making progress on your goals and benefiting from the results.

Sometimes, the very thought that you aren’t doing something “perfectly” can stop you in your tracks and stomp on your motivation.

Don’t fall into that trap.

If, for example, you have to get a winning sales letter in the mail to achieve one of your business goals, take a shot at writing it. Aim for “good” – and get it about 80% of the way there. Then test it. Once you have the test results, you will be able to aim for “better,” because you will have more information to work with.

The 80% rule should be applied to every goal you set for yourself.

Let’s say you have been slaving away at a project. You’ve been putting in long hours, and wearing yourself out. As a result, you are beginning to neglect your other job responsibilities – and even your health.

It’s time to put the 80% rule to work.

Say to yourself, “Have I achieved 80% of what I was aiming for with this project? If not, I will continue to work on it. If so, I will move forward.”

Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t pour 100% of your energy and attention into your goals. It just means that you stop trying to make every detail perfect.

It took me 25 years to learn the 80% rule. Do not wait that long to take advantage of this time-saving, money-making, and goal-achieving insider secret. Had I implemented the 80% rule much earlier, my success would have come much faster and easier. (I also would have had a lot more time to spend with my family.)

If, like me, you are a perfectionist by nature, it won’t be easy to keep your perfectionism at bay. It will take constant effort. But it will be well worth it.

That’s why, for the past 10 years, this has been my rule: 80% means good to go! As Michael Masterson always says, “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

[Ed. Note: You can change your life and accomplish all your goals with simple strategies like Bob’s 80% rule. For dozens more ways to turn your dreams into reality – plus tons of goal-setting tools and motivation to get going – sign up for Bob Cox’s “The Billionaire in You” program.]