Perfectionism is an unrealistic standard we set for ourselves. It is the furthest we can go from getting things done.
Yet perfectionism, in isolation, is a good thing. Athletes and artists spend thousands of hours perfecting their craft. The perfect glide, the perfect swirl, the perfect note – they lead to world-class performance. But when applied without strategy, perfectionism can immobilize you.
In Steve Job’s biography by Walter Isaacson, we see a perfectionist whose deep drive to create flawless products revolutionized seven industries.
Yet, he wasn’t perfect. For all his charisma and ideologies, he grated many nerves.
So what lessons from Steve Jobs can we take into our lives? How can we harness perfectionism that can move us forward? Let’s dive right in!
- Prioritize Projects and Simplify Tasks
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, the company was producing its widest range of products ever. Yet Apple’s future was in doubt.
Jobs realized that if they wanted to create special products, they had to narrow Apple’s scope. So he drew up a four-product matrix and proposed a strategy so simple and powerful it would manifest into the revolutionary Apple product line.
In other words, he realigned the full force of the team’s energy.
How can we apply this strategy to our lives? Start with pending projects. Which help propel your career? What ones bring the most value? Weigh them and choose no more than two or three of the most important ones.
Learn to turn down less-important projects, and settle for “good enough and done is better than perfection” for the rest.
2. Sharpen Your Focus
Steve Job’s focus was like a laser beam. He had the remarkable ability to focus his all on one thing at a time. Whether it be on business or on relationship, when he focused his attention on it, he made it glow and flourish.
In today’s hyper-distracted world, the intensity of our focus is dwindling. But focus has never been more important.
Pour your attention on one thing at a time. Set clear boundaries between tasks.
3. Get More Comfortable with Failure
We are scared to fail in front of other people. Our fear of failure can also come guised as perfectionism. We want to be great or nothing, so we take less risks and shy away from failure.
When was the last time you took up a challenging project even though you weren’t sure you could nail it? How nervous were you before your last big presentation because you knew you weren’t the best presenter in the room? How many blog posts are rotting in your drafts because you thought they weren’t clever enough to hit publish?
Steve Jobs was unapologetically himself. He had less regard for what people thought of him.
His attitude’s not your cue to abandon empathy. Rather, he’s an example of staying true to yourself and disregarding the opinions people hold of you. Then, and only then, will you readily stride forward and take more risks.