Last Thursday, I presented on linking blogs to business strategy at Kansas City’s Central Exchange. While discussing editing blog posts, one potential blogger asked about overcoming the problem of perfectionism when writing. I rather flippantly answered psychological help might be in order.
While trying to be funny, the answer wasn’t completely facetious. I love when things happen exactly on strategy. Through years of observation, however, I’ve come to realize very few mistakes mean even a “figurative” end to the world. Why drive yourself crazy trying to solve every little issue.
This realization began in earnest early in my career, when another person and I were working on a matrix comparing our company to major competitors. It was an arduous project, with many revisions and lots of eyes (including eyes senior to ours) reviewing various drafts. It was eventually published for several thousand sales and management people in the company.
Everything was fine until I received a call from someone who pointed out our company’s goal of “reducing customer exceptions” was mistakenly printed as “reducing customer expectations.” Figuring we were both fired, my co-worker and I went to our boss and informed her of the mistake.
We didn’t get fired. In fact, no one else ever came forward as even noticing the problem.
Despite lots of effort to avoid them, mistakes happen all the time in life. Not that I condone poor performance, but don’t waste your time seeking needless (and often self-defined, not customer-defined) perfection or losing your temper when mistakes do happen. You’ll be much more content and better off if you use a different strategy.
When mistakes occur around you, look hard for what’s actually better because of the mistake than what was originally planned.
In the case of the “lower customer expectations” gaffe, what was better was it made me a more careful editor. Does that mean I’m a perfectionist in writing. Not necessarily. It means I’ve learned and developed a whole repertoire of techniques for overcoming proofreading problems.
For you other perfectionists out there, what strategy do you employ to protect yourself from the tendency to be too correct? - Mike Brown