When I moved to Ohio during the middle of fifth grade we had pencil holders on our desks with our names on them. I showed up at my desk one day and someone had written under my name, “is a nitpicker.” And I’m sure I was.
Someone had obviously written this in response to the way I graded spelling tests. We used to grade each other’s test and I had learned from my previous school that a word was incorrect if you didn’t cross a T or dot an I. So I would marked the word wrong. Someone didn’t like this and made it clear on my pencil holder.
Let’s fast forward 18 years later. I was a copywriter in in-house media team for a large non-profit. One of my roles was to proof documents before they went to the printers.
One day I walked into the designers area for some reason and all the designers had their backs to me. One of the designers, Dwayne, remarked to the other designers, “I don’t know how Dave finds when there are two spaces instead of one.” I was a nitpicker again, but in a good way. We would even double check the documents to make sure the designers made all the changes we had found in the first round of proofing.
It’s easy to not go the second mile when it comes to projects our clients or bosses really may not notice. But we know when someone isn’t done to 100 percent. And that’s when we should embrace our perfectionism.
We recently launched a website and I was bugged by some formatting. I spent an extra half hour of my time fixing the formatting. I was even willing to pay $60 an hour to have this fixed because I knew it mattered to the client, who is even more of a perfectionist than me.
One thing Seth Godin talks about is that you have to ship. If you wait and wait until something is perfect, then you might miss opportunities because of the timing. I agree with this. You have to ship. You have to make something public without everything being 100 percent perfect.
But that is no excuse to get sloppy. You have to get your product or service to a point where is actually valuable. It has to be better and more useful than before.
Steve Jobs was a perfectionist. Some people hated him for this but millions of people love his products because of the perfectionism. Perfect enough can be a good thing when balanced with getting something out the door. Apple wouldn’t be where they are now if they never actually sent something to market.