Is “Done better than perfect”?

Is “done” really better than “perfect”?

I was at a conference for professional speakers last weekend. The presenter was an accomplished speaker with serious chops. The kind of man who you really admire, someone who is a real role model. For speakers, at any rate, he’s a household name.

During this day-long event, one thing he kept repeating was that “Done is better than perfect.” Everyone was nodding his or her head in enthusiasm: Done is better than perfect. Sure, sure.

It reminded me of a friend of mine, someone who I respect and like, who told me a couple of weeks ago that he doesn’t worry too much about the last 20% of a project because “no one will really notice.” After all, he said, that last 20% can take as long to do as the first 80% did. And if no one is going to notice, well…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God is in the details. We all like to say that “The devil is in the details” for two reasons, I think. First, we enjoy the alliteration: devil, details. It’s fun to say. Then, I believe, those last few details are oftentimes the most difficult, time consuming, and, perhaps, frustrating part of any project. So why not spit on the devil, and not finish up? Why not spit on the devil, and not bother? Why not spit on the devil, and not do your best?

There’s a third factor at work here, with this attitude that perfection is unattainable, that striving is for suckers, and that’s the embrace by a large swath of Americans of the concept that “uneducated” somehow trumps “educated.” There are plenty of people who celebrate their lack of education, like it’s difficult to be illiterate. This rush towards the lowest common denominator—the easy way out, the cheap solution, short-term thinking—fuels sloppiness. Sloppy thinking, sloppy habits, sloppy writing.

The supposed “role model” speaker, even as he extolled the virtues of getting things “done” at the expense of the details, was passing around handouts that were littered with punctuation and grammar mistakes as well as several really, really, really obvious misspelled words.

He could have been a true role model for the highest standards; instead, he was a cheerleader for sloppiness.

Perfection is entirely possible. Shouldn’t we all “do our best”? Shouldn’t we all strive to set ourselves up as the authority in our various fields? Don’t we all want to inspire others to higher standards?

Why can’t we be “done” and “perfect”? Answer: we can!

Quality is obvious. Quality announces itself. Quality is recognizable. People aspire to quality. People emulate quality.

That’s God reaching down to us even as we reach up to Him.

So, when you see or hear someone saying that “done is better than perfect,” stop and reflect. Perfection is attainable. In the case of the man who wears the crown “World Champion of Public Speaking,” “perfection” in his handouts would have taken, oh, about five minutes longer than “done.” Perfection was five minutes away, yet he was too sloppy to keep going. As good as he was, he wasn’t good enough.

Why do anything unless you’re going to do it perfectly?

If not, what the fuck is the point? Really, if you aren’t striving to do your very best, if you aren’t reaching, stretching, yearning for the Almighty, why bother to breathe?