The Pursuit For Perfection

I spent quite a bit of time during my vacation watching the Olympics…I really got behind my home team doing so well across the board.

(Yes, I’m Canadian.)

All of the athletes really pulled together and put forth a herculean effort to make the most of their experience. This just didn’t apply to the Canadian athletes – it was a trend that held true for all participating athletes and nations. Working together for one common goal – to be the best at what they do best…and to do it for them and their country. This kind of thinking applies in the workplace as well.

While these athletes pursued gold medals and a chance for glory over the span of only a few days, it took years of effort and dedication to get to that stage in the first place. This is something everyone can do in all walks of life. Apply yourself and put forth your best effort and watch the results come in. If you do it consistently, do it passionately and do it without holding back there’s a really great chance you’ll do it well.

But you won’t be perfect. Don’t even try to be.

Pobody’s Nerfect

My mom used to love saying this phrase –she even had a bookmark with it emblazoned on it. The irony of the phrase is enough to get a chuckle out of most, as is the truth that it points out. The most ironic part about her having it on a bookmark is that she’d forget to put it in whatever she was reading and would have forgotten her place!

No one is perfect all the time. In fact, perfection is a very dangerous term. It scares me to death. I mean, if you reach a level of “perfection” once, it forever alters the way you’re judged at that particular task or project type. While many baseball pitchers who pitched perfect games had stellar careers before and afterward, some are footnotes in baseball history.

Examples of Perfect Gone Wrong

Perfect Numbers

Several numbers have been given this distinction over time, but even after studying the field for over 2000 years it is still uncertain how many exist. The number 6 is said to be one, as is 10. There are another 45. Reasoning behind numbers being considered perfect range from mathematical to religious. I’m no mathematician (or theologian), but nothing here sounds perfect at all.

The Meaning of Perfect

Some say something that is perfect is the epitome of the item/task/work in question. Some say it something that achieves its purpose. Neither definition is perfect – by definition.

Perfect: The Movie

This 1985 film starred John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. It has garnered a collective 3.8 rating on IMDb. A “perfect” score on their rating scale would be a 10. On the popular film review site Rotten Tomatoes, it scored 19%. Unless we go with the definition mentioned above that the film achieved its purpose (presumably meant to be deemed as “perfectly awful”), then I’d say this film is as ironic as my mother’s bookmark.

Sure, I’ve been having a bit of fun at the word’s expense here. I think the point is clear – nothing and no one is perfect. So if the pursuit of perfection is pointless, what should we be shooting for?

Embrace Excellence

I once worked for a company that had (and still does have) a brilliant founder at its helm. During an orientation video, he was giving a talk to high-level management and he told them that the pursuit of perfection is a waste of time. It’s unachievable on a consistent basis, puts undue stress on the workforce and is a drain on resources across the board. However, achieving excellence is something that can – and should be done.

While perfection is black and white (you did it to perfection or you didn’t) in its definition and therefore shouldn’t be subjective, it still is. That’s because there is a human component to it on both ends: the person who is trying to achieve it and the person judging what is achieved. If both sides aren’t on the exact same page (to the letter), perfection is impossible. Without going on a limb, I will say that it is impossible almost 100 percent of the time.

(I’d say the full 100 percent, but that would disprove my point now, wouldn’t it?)

Perfection – A Game Not Worth Playing

Much like the board game of the same name, there are too many pieces involved that can go missing, time constraints and deadlines are often too tight to achieve it and too many personalities have a hand in seeing things through to the end. What you end up with when going after perfection is just one big mess. (Don’t even get me started about Superfection.)

Pursuing perfection is a pointless exercise. It will drain you. Shoot for excellence. When you strive for excellence in everything you do, you’re going to put yourself in contention to be one of the best at what you do. That puts the gold well within your reach.

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Mike Vardy an editor on Work Awesome. We could tell you where his personal productivity parody site, Eventualism and all of his other projects reside on the web, but you'd be best served going to and following the trail of virtual bread crumbs from there.


  1. John Paul Aguiar on the 20th March

    I get stuck on perfection alot.. and that feeds my control issues,,lol or vice versa.

    I have learned to just walk away or submit something and not be so anal with it..

  2. Lauren on the 20th March

    I struggle with this constantly. My biggest issue is that I can’t stand screwing up. I’m always much harder on myself than anyone else would ever be. I’m definitely trying to work on this, and your blog helps me a lot.

  3. Pro Nomad on the 24th March

    I like it. Reminds me of the old 80/20 rule.

    What I would add, is that excellence relates to performance – which is made of of quality AND quantity of work. If you make everything perfect but get little done then that is not excellence, and vice versa.

    A great tip is to set aside an amount of time to do something and when that time limit runs out, assume its finished. It takes a bit of tweaking, but eventually you will work on something for as long as it needs then move on to the next task.


  4. Anne on the 25th March

    I think the Olympics are a good reminder that we all have bad days. Let’s face you have to be world class and almost “perfect” to make it to the olympics and one bad race doesn’t mean you aren’t amazing every other time and amazing for having a bad day and still getting out there!

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