Pragmatism vs perfectionism

Written on 25 January 2018, 10:22pm

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Exactly one year ago I wrote this post – Just do it!.

The key message was to simply start working on things and have a pragmatic approach. A concrete example was about writing a blog post:

I can publish the post after that hour or I can spend more time later polishing it and making it perfect. […] The extra couple hours I could spend polishing it won’t make a massive difference in the number of people who read and benefit from this post.

Sara Mauskopf — Force yourself to do things imperfectly

I thought about this today when reading this (highlights mine):

Randomly think of a thing. Let it bump around your head a bit. If the bumping gets too loud, start writing the words with the nearest writing device. See how far you get. […] Stop when it suits you.

Wait for time to pass and see if the bumping sound returns. Reread what you’ve written so far and find if it inspires you. […] Stop writing and wait for more bumping.

Repeat until it starts to feel done in your head. If it’s handwritten, type it into a computing device. When you are close to done, print it out on paper. Sit somewhere else with your favorite pen and edit your work harshly. If this piece is important, let someone else edit harshly.

Michael Lopp — How to Write a Blog Post

So, which one is it?

I guess it depends on the situation. I can certainly see benefits in both the pragmatic and the perfectionist approach. But since I wrote this post in less than 5 minutes I guess I’m leaning more to the pragmatic side… 🙂

Just do it!

Written on 17 January 2017, 10:19pm

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I’m not a big fan of inspirational quotes, but I recently found myself resonating with a few pragmatic perspectives.
The first one comes from Jerry Seinfeld. In a recent interview he says that simply asking yourself ‘what am I really sick off?’ is key to innovation:

It’s very important to know what you don’t like. A big part of innovation is saying, “You know what I’m really sick of?” For me, that was talk shows where music plays, somebody walks out to a desk, shakes hands with the host, and sits down. “How are you?” “You look great.” I’m also sick of people who are really there to sell their show or product.
“What am I really sick of?” is where innovation begins.
— Jerry Seinfeld, An interview by Daniel McGinn

The second perspective comes from Jeff Bezos, the guy who revolutionized the way we shop online. He warns about the inevitable criticism associated with any pragmatic approach:

If you never want to be criticized, for goodness’ sake don’t do anything new.
— Jeff Bezos

Too bad this quote was also used by Trump in a tweet…

The third perspective was triggered by the previous two: I remembered a principle from the book ‘Soft Skills‘, written by John Sonmez. This principle was ‘Any action is better than no action’, and when I looked back in the book, I found this quote:

Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.
—Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Update: While proof reading this post I remembered about another perspective, about forcing yourself to do things imperfectly. It comes from Sara Mauskopf, the founder of Winnie, who gives a very concrete example:

I have given myself an hour to write this post before I’m on childcare duty. I can publish the post after that hour or I can spend more time later polishing it and making it perfect. I’m forcing myself to publish the piece before the hour is up even though it probably has some typos and maybe could be written more concisely. The extra couple hours I could spend polishing it won’t make a massive difference in the number of people who read and benefit from this post.
Perfectionism is a tough habit to break so you have to set time limits and force yourself to just put things out there even if they aren’t 100% perfect.
— Sara Mauskopf, How to start a company with no free time

Finally, there is no better way to motivate yourself into doing something than saying ‘Challenge accepted‘. It works for me 🙂

Human motivation

Written on 30 March 2015, 03:46pm

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Two years ago I was posting 2 Ted talks having as central idea doing the things you believe in. I recently reviewed them and reflected more about the second – called ‘The puzzle of motivation‘ where Dan Pink makes a case on how the current types of activities we’re involved in require different types of incentives.
Dan Pink sees a mismatch between what science knows and what business does: even though there is scientific proof that creative jobs do not work well with rewards, the current business model works just like that.
There are a few exceptions, like the Google initiative to allow his employees to spend one day per week working on an independent project, Atlassian’s FedEx days or – most powerful example – how Wikipedia succeeded and Microsoft Encarta failed:

Encarta’s closing is widely attributed to competition from the much larger online encyclopedia, Wikipedia
Wikipedia page about Encarta (!)

Dan Pink identifies 3 building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses:
Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives
Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters
Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

If we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe — we can change the world.

More:
* What motivates us
* The Motivation Trifecta: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose