Perfection is BS

I’ve been coaching people about improving their life and coaching job hunters to be more effective in their search for a long time. One of the things that is painfully aware to me is how much people believe they have to be perfect, that no mistake is allowed. At most, they wind up in situations where they punish themselves.

Now, some mistakes are outside your control. Some mistakes are within your control. For example, from a job search perspective, if you’re not prepared for an interview, if you haven’t proofread your resume, that’s your fault. You could have done something about that beforehand and you chose not to and yes, you’ll learn a perfectionlesson from it. It was completely avoidable.

A lot of times, we make mistakes and, in your life which language, fail because we didn’t anticipate every possible contingency known to mankind. I remember a boss who chastised me, because, in my history is as a recruiter, on September 13, 2001, two days after 9/11, he called me up on the phone and I’d been doing business with a small subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, one of the firm’s whose buildings were destroyed as part of the attack. He lambasted me for not having disaster recovery business with Deutsche Bank, even though I’d only been working with a small subsidiary for four months. Like they were going to give this employment agency disaster recovery business, even though we had no experience whatsoever. This global multi billion dollar bank was going to say, “You small employment agency . . . let’s give you the business.”

Crazy! But he went out of his way to “beat me up.” I looked him square in the eye and said, “Gee, I wish you had offered that as a suggestion before. I would have tried.”

A lot of things that you consider mistakes, may be blind spots, may be good choices, but you’re beating yourself up over them. Why?

The notion of being perfect comes from grade school where we’re graded on a numeric scale that says, “excellence is 100%.” You were able to parrot back the answer in a way that pleased your teacher perfectly on that particular score. The testing is purely subjective.

Are you telling me that one student wasn’t advantaged over another when the teacher had a little bit of doubt about that essay and gave him a break? Of course! So, the system was set up to train you into focusing on this industrial mindset of being perfect and being another widget coming down the assembly line that look perfect.

In life, in business, let’s look at baseball. You can hit over .300. You fail to get ahead seven out of 10 times, you’re a star. When did you get this lesson about perfection? I do want to say that people who are more successful, try more, try harder and get more and better results.

As a result of that, they fail quickly. They recognize their mistakes; they adapt, but they don’t stop. For many of you the first time you make a mistake, you stop and you never go forward.

Keep pushing, because, after all, that failure gives you the opportunity that scientists have to experiment. Once that experiment fails, they go back and try it in a slightly different way.

Well, you have to try your ideas in lots of different ways.

Being a scientist and conduct experiments. Learn from them. Go back to the drawing board.

Rinse and repeat.

One day, you may say the equivalent words of, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to you.”

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2015, 2020, 2021



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is Career Angles | Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is you the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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