RICKY BOBBY, THE greatest race car driver of all time, famously said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” This makes for a memorable tagline in a comedy. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful in business.
We Americans have a capitalistic culture of achievement and perfectionism that’s deeply ingrained. From sports to career to families to children to finance to annual sales, we put undue pressure on ourselves.
But as we all know, diamonds are a product of nature. There’s no such thing as a perfect stone. They all develop blemishes during the formation process. The same goes for human beings and the businesses they operate.
My former coworker was a classic perfectionist. Our startup was doing a redesign of our massively outdated website, and this person singlehandedly stalled that project three months longer than necessary. Cost us thousands of dollars in labor. And we did our best to keep moving the work forward, set deadlines, ignore irrelevant feedback and make changes that were good enough.
Of course, that didn’t cut the mustard for Mr. Blue Ribbon. Our website was going to be perfect. Which, if you have ever opened or worked at small business before, that’s basically code for, “I’m afraid of exposing my work to the public because of what people will think about it.”
If you’ve ever been trapped in the vortex of “besting” before, you know how exasperating it can be. One tool that has helped me cope with this distress is called The Unfinish Line. It’s the practice of treating the creative process as an imperfect and noncompetitive practice that never ends.
Take your own store’s website. If you’re doing a redesign, making tech updates, or running some other kind of optimization, you can remind yourself that “done” beats “perfect.” Your website doesn’t have to be the greatest thing that ever was. Why make the process any harder on yourself than it needs to be?
This tool is a surefire way to reduce workplace stress while still getting great work done. The Unfinish Line helps us attain more realistic and balanced perceptions of our creative ideas. We gain a real sense of proportion to determine what is actually good enough, and just get on with selling our wares.
Now, when you’re not focusing on perfect, the results probably won’t be earth-shattering and award-winning. But then again, progress trumps perfection. Updating a company website each year in a manner that’s good enough is more valuable than making it perfect every 12 years.
Replace perfection with progress, and your products will be certain to shine bright.