Vince Lombardi

The Paralysis of Perfection

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi

For over two years now I’ve owned the devbyday.com domain. For over two years it has sat dormant. There is so much potential, and so much available that I want to achieve, that I wanted to hold off until I got everything just right before revealing it to the world at large. And therein lies the problem. In seeking perfection, I allowed myself to slip into the comfortable view that having nothing is better than having something imperfect. That is the paralysis of perfection.

It’s easy, as a developer, designer, or client, to get into such a mindset. We want the world to see something in a very specific way, and have such expectations, that we would rather reveal only when it’s ready. I find that, too often, this leads to endless iteration, particularly when perfection is not something with clearly defined expectation and goals. Over the past two years I’ve gone through several cycles of evaluating designs, and implementing my own, but never finding the one that truly stood out to me as the perfect model of my design, and my unclear vision.

The Cost of Perfection

At a Mexican restaurant near my office, they have a saying painted on the wall: “Perfeccion tiene su precio.” (“Perfection has a price” in English). This is very true. Apart from the obvious financial components of this price, there are more intangible costs that we pay. On top of the simple costs of hours spent working on a design for this site and researching options, on top of the costs incurred by hosting and owning a domain but not providing any content, there was a price in knowledge.

Until now, I’ve not written anything on this site. However, that does not mean nothing has happened in the last two years. That does not mean there is nothing I’ve learned in the past two years. On the contrary, I’ve grown significantly, in both professional and personal capacities. I’ve had great ideas for posts and articles to write on my experiences. Those ideas are all lost now, casualties to my search for an ideal, and a more substantial cost to that quest. Perfection has cost me money, and cost me knowledge. The worst part is that paying the price for perfection does not mean perfection can be purchased. Perfection may never be achieved, but striving for it without practical concerns will ensure significant ongoing costs.

Perfection as an Ideal

Striving for perfection has a cost, and perfection may not ever be achieved, but that does not mean we should not try anyway. By reaching for the stars, we learn what our limits are. If we give ourselves measures that are impossible to match, we have a lasting gauge for our continued growth and personal improvement.

In that sense, desiring perfection is a laudable behavior. It comes down to the difference between recognizing when that perfection is being used as a measure for growth, and when it is being used instead to push us down and hold us back. For too long, perfection has become my expectation instead of my standard of measurement when it comes to this site, its contents, and its look and feel.

The price of perfection, as an expectation, has gotten too high, and it’s time to start the journey, and share that journey as it progresses, rather than only being willing to provide the results.

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Steve Mathias

Full-time Developer for Crowd Favorite, specializing in PHP using WordPress and Laravel, and JavaScript including Angular and jQuery. In my spare time, I enjoy thought-inducing activity, primarily card, board, and video games, and spending time with friends and discussing life.

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