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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Being a progressionist versus being a perfectionist

Being hyper-focused on perfectionism leads to micromanaging, and we all know how that squelches progress.

Being a progressionist versus being a perfectionist
[Antonioguillem / Adobe Stock]

Let’s be honest for a moment: Nothing is ever going to be perfect. That’s just the tough reality we face every day. Those brand new shoes are going to get scuffed. That perfectly drawn-up marketing plan will have unforeseen flaws. That doesn’t mean, however, that you and your team shouldn’t try your absolute best to get as close to perfection as possible. Still, time and time again I meet with an entrepreneur and ask them “How’s that thing going” that they are working on. The answer I often get is something like, “Well, I’m still working on it because…” and then they describe some detail they are trying to get right.

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I can’t stress enough how important a moment this is for anyone looking to accomplish something new. You can take an endless amount of time chasing a vague concept of perfection and watch your goals move further and further away. Or, you can spend time getting something as ready as you can and then release it knowing you can always iterate and improve.

An example: I worked with a consultant who was trying to start a business and was building a digital marketing campaign to get it off the ground. Every time we spoke, there was very little actual progress toward the goal. Lots of minor details had gotten in the way. He told me, “I recorded some video to put online, but I need to edit it, and I can’t figure out how to drop the right music in it.” He was tied up by aiming for perfection. After a second month had come and gone, he had not yet landed another client because he wasn’t advertising yet.

When I speak with my team, I always say, “I’m not a perfectionist. I’m a progressionist.” A progressionist builds something as best they can, releases it, observes it and then iterates on it. Six months to a year down the road, the progressionist is almost always farther along than the perfectionist who is just now releasing something.

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During the startup days of my company, we were competing with companies that had far more money and resources than we did. But those companies spent the majority of the time chasing “perfection” in the form of landing massive, campus-wide contracts with schools that were still wrapping their head around online education. Meanwhile, we made “progress” by agreeing to work with one faculty at a time, anywhere we could be of assistance. A little more than two years later, those competitors had landed one or two large accounts, while we had hundreds of raving fans on campuses all over the country.

Aiming for progress doesn’t mean you are lowering the bar. It means that you are prioritizing moving toward a goal over getting there in one step. If you are starting a business, establish a proposed release date and then make it happen. Don’t let striving for perfection paralyze progress. Being hyper-focused on perfectionism leads to micromanaging, and we all know how that squelches progress.

Progress beats perfectionism every time. And, our company has never looked back.

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Jarrod Morgan is the Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of Meazure Learning, the parent company of ProctorU.

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