Monday 17th December 18:35

"Future Imperfect"

Hi everyone,
  Over the recent holidays, when everyone else was lying in, I was up at dawn working on our e-learning courses. I trawled through every page, checking that everything was just perfect. Not for me the application spell checker. I went through every word on every page just to make sure they were right.

Working day and night like this, I managed to get through 80% of the courses fine and gave them a big tick. Perfect. But there were around 20% of courses that had to be re-worked with new topics, new quizzes, and new animations. For me they just didn't come up to the mark. So, while 20% of the holidays was spent on checking the quality of 80% of the courses, 80% of the holidays was spent on toiling over the 20% of courses that I wasnt happy about.

And if that's not a good example of the 80-20 Pareto principle, I don't know what is!

The reason why I gave up a good amount of the holiday period on this work was, of course, that I have a perfectionist streak in me. When other people see the big picture and say "OK", I see the small details and say "how can this be better?". That's why people like me aren't content with 80% of things being fine; we want the whole 100% to be fine, if not more.

Like other perfectionists, I know that this approach is a double-edged sword. I like the feeling of getting things right but I don't like the pressure it puts on me to overwork and overdo. Which is why I am pleased for some help from my friend Scott Ginsberg.

Scott is a guy from St Louis, Missouri, who is also known as the Approachability Guy. At the tender age of 26, he's written umpteen books and lectures to top executives all over the States.

The help I got from Scott came in the form of something he told me about being more approachable when you're not a perfectionist. If you're too damn perfect, people get a little uncomfortable, perhaps worrying that you'll expect perfection from them as well. But when you show your vulnerability, your human side, your mistakes, people warm to you and think, "heck, he's really like us, so he must know what we're going through".

Easing back on being perfect and not expecting perfection in others is what makes others like you. It's learning to live in shades of grey rather than black and white, good and bad, perfect and imperfect, right and wrong. As Scott puts it, it's about "walking the halls" with an attitude of confident uncertainty.

So that was the lesson I needed to learn. No more holidays given over to working. No more punishing schedules. No more search for perfection. Excellence, yes; perfection, no.

Scott left a question ringing in my ears, "What would happen to your career if you were known as the biggest imperfectionist in the world?" Good question. Not wanting to be perfect, I don't know the answer right now :) So, let me put it another way by quoting  from U S Anderson in his 1961 classic book, "The Magic in Your Mind", "When imperfectness enters a man's soul, he is able to show that he does not live in the world alone but with millions of others in whose hearts exists the same animating spirit."

Have a great and imperfect day!

Eric

(c) ManageTrainLearn 2011