When ‘good enough’ is just ‘not enough’

  • August 6th, 2019

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected” The man lived the life he spoke of and is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of this century.

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected”

The man lived the life he spoke of and is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of this century. But for a moment, let us distance ourselves from the man himself and dwell a bit on his advocacy.

Striving to ensure that a service/product is ‘up to the mark’ is an essentiality these days. Continue to churn out sub-standard work and you’ll be staring down the barrel sooner than later. However, what happens on the other side of the spectrum, when the quest for quality and a painstaking attention to detail gradually becomes a self-inflicted wound?

At an organizational level, where multiple domains are required to interact and coexist with each other, this is unlikely to be the case. At an individual level however, it is not too far-fetched a possibility. Could there (should there?) be a slightly different connotation of ‘quality’ when it comes to an individual?

What in essence I am alluding to here is ‘perfectionism’ – a seemingly positive trait that has as much the ability to push individuals to levels that they might’ve considered unattainable otherwise, as it does to send them spiraling down in a vicious cycle of self-sabotage. For many a time, individuals fall victim to the ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome – forever lacking the will to fire.

Maladaptive Perfectionism

hen ‘good enough’ is just ‘not enough’, one starts breaching the zone of maladaptive perfectionism. It can push people to a state where a failure to follow through with their insanely high standards, causes them to do nothing, and therefore resist moving forward. This ultimately manifests itself in the form of a fixed mindset, in what is unquestionably a stagnant state of the mind.

I’ll take the liberty of drawing some parallels with our founder’s ideologies of an anti-fragile decision supply chain. In Dhiraj’s words,

“You will have constant decision stock-outs when there are people who cannot operate at speed, leaders who are extremely consensus based and who want to postpone the decision at every point in time because that makes them feel that they will get a better decision at a later point in time. All of these are aspects of unhealthy decision supply chains.”

So how does one combat this regressive quality? How does one reach a stage where their standards are always rising along with their desire to improve, but still not traversing Utopian realms?

Fail Forward

We’re used to the reaction of “Here we go again…”, when we hear the phrase ‘Extreme Experimentation’. But keep aside the branding aspect of the phrase and you’ll realize that herein lies an inherent incentive to fail – to fail forward. I’ll refrain from kicking off a sermon on failures being mere stepping stones, but suffice it to say that one needs to break free from the alpha/beta phases in life. From a writer’s perspective, it’s often said – “Don’t get it right. Just get it written”. Essentially, get the 1.0 out, iterations will follow in due course.

“Shoulda – Woulda – Coulda”

How many times do you find yourself saying – “I shoulda done that…”, “It coulda been better…”, “There woulda been…”? It’s important to realize that sometimes – It’s Ok. Just be willing to make decisions and have the courage to live with its consequences. Sometimes, it just pays to stick to perfect imperfections.

Hail the Pareto

Lastly, what’s a read without some statistics in it, right? Let’s bring that in as well, with the ubiquitous Pareto principle. The idea is to focus on just the initial 80 percent, as it consumes only 20 percent of your time and energy. Let not the final 20 percent exhaust you and kill your creativity.

Tackling perfectionism in an environment that promotes it is indeed an uphill task. That’s when you should remember Leonardo Cohen’s words:

“There is a crack in everything….that’s how the light gets in.”