4 Problems with Perfectionism

Why are skillful people rare? Because most of us fall pray to perfectionism.

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”
-Proverbs 22:29

Every time I read this verse I think of Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography he attests to the truth of this verse stating that he had stood before many kings and even had dinner with the king of Denmark. He claimed his mad printer skills caused his fame and success. Franklin was not a perfectionist he was skillful. Yes there is a difference.

4 Problems with Perfectionism:

1. Perfectionism is Pride
Some people are unwilling to admit they are not good at something so they spend unreasonable amounts of time trying to get their work to match their self image. They fail to admit their inadequacy. They refuse to submit to the instruction of a master. This is vanity. Instead of asking for help they just keep working, blind to their inefficiencies and lack of skill .

2. Perfectionism Poisons Efficiency
Perfectionists feel that they do a good job when they just take longer. They feel that taking this extra time makes their results “perfect.” Anyone can complete a task given enough time. Skill determines how much time a person needs. They will not be able to stand before kings. Perfectionism is what separates starving artists from thriving artists. Skilled artists can do a good job quickly. Other artists make excuses for their slowness and their lack of ambition.

3. Perfectionism Wastes Money
As an employer I am always hesitant to hire a perfectionist. I know it can take them twice as long to do a job 20% better than a non perfectionist. The reason Master Electricians charge twice as much for electrical work is because it takes them half the time to do the job. And they do it right the first time. No one wants to spend 2x money on the same quality job.

4. Perfectionism Cheapens Excellence
There are times when excellence is needed. But if you can’t do it correctly in an hour what makes you think the second hour will make it correct? The key to excellence is practice. Do your task a dozen different ways till you find the best way to do it. Experiment, evaluate execute repeat.

What do you think?

Ok, you have heard what I think about perfectionism. What do you think?

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of PracticalCourtship.com, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “4 Problems with Perfectionism

  1. Here is another negative that perfectionism produces (I should know) Perfectionism produces disappointment. There was only one man that walked this earth that was perfect and that was Jesus Christ. so everyone is going to fail and therefore, if you're striving for perfection, you're going to be disappointed.

  2. R. G. LeTourneau (inventor of the bulldozer and modernizer of earthmoving equipment) said that he was once admonished, "Better a poor steam engine that runs than a good one never finished." Later in life he pointed out that until the steam engine is finished, its development can't begin. So you do your best now, and then do it again, and do it again, each time learning from the last time. That's the way to become skilled! As you said, it all comes down to practice.

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