Sounds a bit extreme doesn’t it? Isn’t perfection somewhat subjective? And what standards are you using for the measure of “perfection,” anyway?

I ask these questions because I once had a client tell me that a project I provided them was “PERFECT!” Boy, that felt good. No, strike that. It felt GREAT… but those feelings were fleeting.

After a months of meetings, consulting, outlining, sketching, rough drafts and edits; we went to press with a product that I thought was good, but to describe it as “perfect” made me pause. Sure, the client’s brand was defined. It represented their services truthfully; it was relevant to their marketplace; it was unique and engaging. And from an aesthetic perspective, it was beautiful. It was definitely “portfolio quality.” But, I couldn’t even revel in the praise for more than a moment. Why? I had no idea. I had to let it go and chalk it up to my own perfectionism… but it still bothered me (and those I worked around).

So, today I’m rolling through my daily BlogLog, reading wisdom from people I consider experts on everything from marketing and communications to life coaching and leadership and I land on Seth Godin’s blog. His latest post, “The Problem With Perfect,” stopped me in my tracks (does reading leave tracks?).

He writes:

“When was the last time you excitedly told someone about Fedex?

They’re perfect. The only time we notice them is when they screw up.

And that fancy restaurant with the four star reviews? They’ve got the fine linen and the coordinated presentation of dishes… it costs hundreds of dollars to eat there, but it’s okay, because they’re perfect.

Which is a problem, because dinner consists of not much except noticing how imperfect they are.”

He goes on to imply that once the perception of perfection is established, then…

“all you can do is notice that it’s not perfect.”

Suddenly, it made sense why I couldn’t celebrate the “perfection” of that project. I was anticipating the next project. I was already trying to figure out what to do to maintain this “standard.” It scared me. It inspired me.

As competition – whether internal or external – grows, how do you maintain your standards for perfection? As I asked at the beginning of this post, what standards are you using for the measure of “perfection,” anyway? And ultimately, how do those standards change? Do you compare your work to others? Do you gauge success (perfection) or failure (anything less) by the satisfaction of your customers or by some other, more technical manner?

Contrary to some opinions, I KNOW I’m not perfect. I’d be interested in how you strive toward and maintain standards of excellence – whether it’s business or personal…

Until next time…
Keep Cooking!

  1. Andrew,BR/What a great post! This is an awesome thought provoker! In fact, it made me go back and read an old post of mine on perfection ( In doing so, I realized that I discussed my “pursuit of perfection,” but failed to DEFINE “perfection”. Of course, this defining and measuring perfection thing has got me stumped! I’m going to have to give it some thought and get back to you on how I do it. BR/BR/In regards to striving for excellence (perfection), I think it is extremely important for people to remember that it’s a journey, and that they need to recognize their shortcommings, learn from them, and move on! People who dwell too much on the “failures” can never reach perfection, because they fail to continue the journey!

  2. Hi Eric – BR/BR/That’s where I got stumped as well… “Perfection” is (according to most theologists) impossible to attain (everyone say “ohm”)… so maybe the title of the post should have been ‘Successful? That’s what…’ and so-on.BR/BR/Measuring your success is a tricky thing to do. And if you dwell on what DIDN’T work you’ll never reach your goal – whether it’s “perfection” or just happy clients. Great point. And one that I need to keep an eye on.BR/BR/Technology is giving us a lot of tools for measurement (see my recent post on SEO Report Cards), but consistency and tracking is what I’d be interested in…BR/BR/Thanks for stopping by!BR/BR/Keep Cooking!BR/Andrew