Friday, June 8, 2007


We are imperfect people leading imperfect lives in an imperfect world.

We see evidence of this imperfection everyday in the mirror: whether it’s a receding hairline, wrinkles on our face, or the five pounds we’ve wanted to lose.

We are reminded of this imperfection periodically on the roadways: we get a flat tire, our car breaks down, or we are rear-ended.

We are taught this imperfection occasionally by nature: a tsunami wrecks a village, a tornado tears apart a town, or a hurricane decimates a city.

Even though we experience imperfection and accept it all around us, we still fall victim to our own perfectionist streaks from time to time. In her column for Yahoo! Finance, Penelope Trunk spots the dangers of perfectionism and advises readers to break the perfection habit.

The Debilitating Drawbacks of Perfectionism

A Hypercritical Attitude

Perfectionists suffer from an almost neurotic adherence to absurdly high standards. They agonize over the simplest of details, and they are intolerant with the slightest of errors.

Even worse, perfectionists may impose their exacting standards on others. For persons reporting to a perfectionist, the inability to match their manager’s lofty expectations can be intensely frustrating. Sensing their work will be judged as too slow or too sloppy (no matter much effort they put in), workers may be tempted to quit trying.

Paralysis by Analysis

Perfectionists may freeze up in the face of a project because they refuse to start until they see a chance of attaining perfection. Endlessly deliberating, they neglect action. By over-thinking, they rob themselves of initiative, and they may begin procrastinating.

Fear of Failure

Perfections have an irrational fear of failing. Instead of taking healthy risks, perfectionists focus all of their energy on maintaining a veneer of flawless performance. They are apt to squander time minimizing or hiding imperfections rather than capitalizing on their strengths.

Insights on Attaining Imperfection

Discern between Essentials and Non-essentials

A typo on the front page headline of the New York Times—essential. A typo on the agenda of an internal team meeting—non-essential. For those with the perfectionist bent, a healthy balance comes by recognizing which tasks require top-notch excellence and which tasks simply need to be completed adequately.

Cut Yourself (and Others) Some Slack

Mistakes are a natural part of life. Try as hard as we’d like, we still fail from time to time. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice gives us an outlet for mistakes, and mistakes teach us how to be better.

Embrace Uncertainty

Perfectionists are prone to delay decisions until every last piece of information has been gathered and scrutinized. For those paralyzed by perfectionism, progress comes by making room for uncertainty. Decisions will always be accompanied by a degree of the unknown, and, as such, it is vitally important for a leader to be comfortable taking action.

Perfection is a destination no one will ever reach. Excellence is a journey open to all. Strive to do your best, and realize the reality of imperfection.

To peruse the full text of Penelope Trunk’s article “Breaking the Perfection Habit,” visit Yahoo Finance! online:

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