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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vulnerability and the Myth of the Picture Perfect Anything | Courtney Carver, Be More with Less

The headline for this article got me thinking again about perfectionism--or striving to be perfect in what we do. But my thinking took me in a different direction than Carver's thoughtful comments.

I think striving for perfectionism can have the opposite consequences of what we're trying to accomplish. Oh the irony.

For one thing, we can achieve creativity by making mistakes. When trying to create something that will inspire, motivate or simply inform other people, we can be more productive if we try out or test new ways of doing things. And they certainly won't all be good ideas. Some may even be embarrassing or silly.

For example, we may not have all the information, skills, knowledge, time, materials or other resources to create a finished product. But the mistakes we make in using what we have to create it will help us learn what we really need to complete it successfully.

And repeating an example I use for my websites about writing and my writing/editing service, a pencil is a "perfect" symbol of creativity. Why do pencils have erasers? So we can try things out using the other end of the pencil and then erase the mistakes and fix them or try something else. That's creativity! If we're not willing to make those mistakes we may never come up with a creative, effective, workable solution.

And that brings me to my second concern about perfectionism. It can be an excuse for procrastination--intended or not. If we strive for an effective, workable solution that has no flaws, one that works under all circumstances, including unforeseen circumstances, we may never finish the task or project. That fear of failure can lead to procrastination.

Of course, in considering the mistakes we're likely to make and then dealing with the consequences of them, protecting the health and safety of other people must be a first priority. And other priorities could be financial or the reputation of an organization, individual or idea.

Given all the potential consequences, the mistake-making is best done as part of the creative process, as an important step toward the solution. But if a mistake is made later, it's usually best to acknowledge the error, fix things harmed by the error, and take steps to prevent the error from happening again.

I realize legal, financial, political, insurance and public relations folks, all concerned about the liability and consequences of mistakes, may insert strong, influential words under some circumstances. But I still think it's smart for development and creative staff to stand their ground and express their significance on the bottom line and reputation, at least in the imagination and planning stages.

We must be willing to ask ourselves, what's worse: Not accomplishing anything or accomplishing something that's not perfect?

The failure to accomplish something could very well be a worse consequence than not achieving perfection.

Carver's article is featured today, Feb. 27, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Simple Dreams, available at the Simplicity tab above and by free email subscription.


  1. I agree with your thoughtful comments about mistakes, erasers, the perception of perfection (it's always a perception) and their effects on creativity. For another take on erasers, mistakes and perceived perfectionism, see my blog post:

  2. Thank you, MiataGrrl! I also agree with your comments here (about perfection=perception) and in your blog. Your comments also got me thinking how making those "mistakes" not only helps us achieve our goal creatively, they also help define that final result. In other words, while we may (try to) erase them, their imprint or impression can continues (figureatively, if not literally).

    And related to that, the "mistakes" we make aren't all necessarily wrong. Depending on the goal or circumstances, they may be only an alternative way to write, draw, design or do something. They could be a "right" way if we chose to use them or accept them. And in any case, their imprint or impression can stick with us (in positive as well as negative ways) as we move forward.


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