Perfection: The Crippling Pursuit for Designers

Reads: the best way to get something done is to begin

The best way to get something done is to begin. The worst is to think it can be done to perfection.

The photo that heads this post is of the cover of my notebook for 2016. The message reads “The best way to get something done is to begin.” I LOVE that reminder for this year – a year when I am attempting (yet again) uncharted territory for myself. Because I have a tendency that I’m sure a lot of creatives suffer from: I allow myself to be crippled by the idea of “perfection.”

Perfection is bullshit.

I just want to get that out of the way from the beginning. It’s my new stance on perfection, and it’s definitely taking some time for me to wrap my head around it. What inspired this change in perspective? Motherhood.

Mothers don’t have time to be perfect. Mothers need to get shit done and move on, or we would be stuck in a perpetual state of non-accomplishment all day long. Let me be clear: That’s not exclusive to mothers. It just took becoming one myself for me to truly realize how much I’ve allowed myself to be held back under the guise of striving for perfection.

I’ve learned in the past 4 years, and most especially in just the past year, that this ideal of perfection is firstly completely unattainable and secondly an enormous waste of energy and resources. I’ve spent years truly believing that if I was to be the best designer and web developer I can be, I would have to be the best designer and web developer. I’d follow all the rules. I’d solve all the problems. I’d blow the clients minds with my seamless solutions that were so in tune with their users needs that no one would even notice they would exist.

Imagine how many solutions I didn’t present because I pre-rejected them in my own personal pursuit of perfection!

Even more terrifying to think, imagine how many pre-rejected solutions I’d tossed aside that could have been molded into just the solution we were looking for if only they were given a chance to be mocked and rejected by someone other than me. Because what if they didn’t mock or reject it? What if they saw a kernel of something great inside what I saw as a mess? What if we pursued that? What if, what if, what if.

Despite the thick skin we grow on the outside in a creative profession, sometimes there’s a chip in the armor. In trying to prove we’ve got the answers before we share anything in the process, we’re really masking our own insecurities that the idea might sink. So what if it does? Does that make us any less the professionals in our field? Absolutely not. And, in fact, it makes us better through the process of failing.

Perfection doesn’t help us grow, only failure can do that.

As a kid I played sports. My dad was one of my coaches and he would preach the importance of a loss over any outcome. He said that winning showed us that we were capable, but losing taught us what we needed to learn to get to the next level. That’s true of design.

“Winning” at everything without encountering a failure now and then feels great, but it doesn’t teach us anything new. It doesn’t force us to push ourselves to find a way to victory. It allows us to rest on what we’ve already learned and feel that that is enough.

It’s not enough.

Moving forward, I’m striving to not hoard my ideas until they are polished to “perfection,” but share them. This website is as good a starting point as any – especially since it has suffered more than anything else from my pursuit of perfection over the years by sitting unused. I’ve launched it, unfinished and using a template someone else has written (for now), because there’s no crime worse than letting it languish. I’ll be able to work with it, mold it to how I envision it to be, but in the meantime I’ll also be able to showcase who I am in the process.

This is the year when I get back to basics and not immediately shoot for the stars. No, I’m not lowering my expectations by any means. I am merely embracing the idea that everyone in everything must start at the beginning. No project can be perfect without being a floundering failure in its path to “complete.”

And I embrace and welcome that.

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