Slaying Perfectionism

(Republished from my Jan 15, 2017 blog post)

Hello, 2017…

Let’s be honest. New Years Resolutions are overrated. I’m not too fond of the whole thing, so I don’t participate. I think people put too much pressure on themselves. Besides, why would you need to wait for a new year to roll around to improve yourself (exercise, diet, career, etc.)? Why not just start now, whenever now is?

However, I do think a new calendar year can be good for something: a theme. A theme is a little broader, a little more nebulous, a little less stressful than a resolution. It’s not “I’m going to go from gyming it up zero times per week to four times per week by the end of January!” Yeah. Right. Prepare for burnout.

Theming is about taking a step outside of yourself and looking at the broader picture. Working on a character trait that gives you anxiety, for example. Or ridding yourself of a bad habit. These things take time.

Last year I decided to make 2016 my Year of Clarity. It was all about soul-searching and looking back at what I’d done so far in my life to make an educated decision as to what the next step should be.

And it worked.

So this year, I’m doing the same. But I’m theming it something new.

2017 is The Year I Slay Perfectionism.

This is going to be a challenge. But I have a year to do it, so I’ll take it one step at a time.

The reason this will be a challenge is that perfectionism is an ingrained character trait of mine. It’s caused me loads of stress over the years.

For most of my life, I’ve worn my perfectionism like a badge of honor when really it was a thorn in my side.

I kept believing people when they’d say perfectionism is important, rather than listening to my gut, which was telling me otherwise.

Perfectionism is not important. If pursuing design has taught me one thing, it’s that failing fast and failing often is the surest way to success. My instructors at General Assembly have stressed this fact again and again, not in a pushy way, but in an honest way. And I’ve come to agree.

When I think about it, what’s so blatantly obvious — and something I’ve somehow overlooked for so long — is that nine times out of ten, the little details that I see as problems that need fixing are things that others don’t even notice.

I just finished a group project with my amazing partners Chris and Zoy. Right out of the gate we decided to abide by the notion that we didn’t — and, in fact, couldn’t — have the solution to the problem we were trying to solve the first time we sketched the interface we were building. We accepted it as gospel. It was liberating. And it helped speed up our iteration process.

You see, we set out on a project brief two weeks ago to design a cloud-based software for Netflix, which would allow producers, writers, editors, marketers, designers, etc. collaborate with one another on Netflix Originals. We call it Netflix Producer.

After our presentation on Friday, our instructor commented that we had “really knocked it out of the park.”

Proud of us.

Here’s a quick teaser (just the login screen — there’s a LOT more to show):

I can’t wait to show the rest of it soon! I’ll be adding this project to my portfolio within the next two weeks. Joining my email list is the best way to stay up-to-date with me (you can do that below).

With this project, trying new things and reiterating again and again at a fast pace brought us to a pretty sound solution. We messed up, went back to the drawing board, made improvements and messed up a little more, went back to the drawing board, and so on.

And you know what? I discovered I love this mode of work. Giving myself permission to be messy is freeing. Good things take some time to get good. I felt immeasurably less stress than I normally do when starting a new project, just because I allowed myself to adopt a new mindset.

Perfection is subjective. The most subjective thing there is. And perfection is not success. I could make the world’s best lasagna, but that doesn’t make me a master chef. And by what measuring tool are we even arriving at the conclusion that it is, in fact, the world’s best lasagna? It’s impossible to measure. Yet it’s something we silly human beings do all the time.

I’ll write more about perfection soon. I have many more thoughts about it.

So here’s to 2017. The year I give myself permission to get messy, to not arrive at conclusions prematurely, and to stop tinkering so damn much.

Time is precious, and I’d rather spend it building and improving things than getting hung up on the small details, which can always be improved with time anyway.

Designer, writer, and photographer dwelling in Los Angeles.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store