Perfection is your enemy.

Photo: Ricardo Viana

‘Perfect is the enemy of good’

This phrase is an adaptation of Voltaire’s original which was — ‘Better is the enemy of good’.

You could spend weeks, months, or years trying to achieve perfection in something, but the truth is you never will.

Striving for perfection in everything you do is stopping you from doing just about everything you dream of doing.

Not wanting to show the world something that is not perfect robs you of the chance to make or do things.

I know a lot about this topic as I was, until quite recently, one of these fools striving for perfection in everything I did or touched.

Then I asked myself — what exactly is perfection and who makes the rules for perfection?

Creative people in particular can be their own worst enemies. Having something you brought to life from the recesses of your mind that may get ridiculed or judged can be a daunting thought. But I have a solution to that, and it is really quite simple and can be summed up in three words.

Get over it.

There is one good thing you learn in advertising after many years and that is to develop rhino skin. Your ideas are going to get pummeled, picked at, critiqued, maybe even laughed at or vilified.

At the end of the day you just have to say — so what?

Remember that rhyme from childhood?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me

When did we forget that?

As a young creative you see your lovely little creations that you sweated over, went nights without sleep for, and so passionately crafted up being tossed into the trash by your boss followed by — “What else have you got?”

I’ve written about this problem before, about falling in love with your ideas too soon. It’s a trap, don’t do it.

In some ways this could be tied to the pursuit of perfection, you thought what you created was so perfect, but it wasn’t and seeing it being rejected can be a crushing blow.

As a Creative Director I personally prefer to see (in fact when I ran agencies I regularly made it a mandatory) 150 half-baked thoughts rather than two or six highly polished concepts that aren’t very good.

Ideas are a numbers game. The more thinking you put down on paper the more chance you have of coming up with something great. There could be something amazing hidden in some random scribbles, but if you keep stopping along the way to try and perfect one scribble you may be robbing yourself of coming up with something much better.

Let’s say you decide you want to start painting, you may be worried that your first piece wont be great, here’s the truth — it wont be. But the second painting will be better. And something you paint in five years will most likely pale in comparison to something you paint in ten years.

The same applies to all creative crafts. The more you do the better you get, simple.

Don’t try and be perfect, instead, aim to be a constant creative, keep thinking and making things instead of stopping to polish every little scribble or thought.

That’s it for today; see you tomorrow.


P.S. If you are in New York and would like to attend a small talk I am moderating called ‘Where do ideas come from?’ on September 13 you can see the details here.

Rodd Chant is a Creative Director / Writer / Strategist and a bit more. He also teaches creativity to groups and individuals and makes a mean Thai red curry, or so he says. He also has a penchant for talking in the third person. You can read more of his LinkedIn musings here. You can also find him on Twitter and on Instagram. Or drop him an email —

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