“I screwed it up, chasing after perfection, chasing after what was right in front of me.”
— Kevin Flynn, Tron Legacy
I have always had a problem with perfection. Not so much in trying to achieve it but as an aspiration, as an idea, as something to strive towards. A destination to reach, to step back from, to survey and think “this is it, I’ve reached perfection”.
Perfection is a double-edged sword. We all want our work to be the best it can be: we want our clients to like what we produce, we want our peers to appreciate our work and above all we want ourselves to be satisfied by the fruits of our endeavours. But the pursuit of excellence can also be destructive — when we design we must continually challenge our direction. But how often have you kept your work back from a client because “it’s not quite ready”, because it doesn’t quite match your expectations, because it’s not as good as you want it to be.
Such feelings are important when we build — it is important to have pride in what we do. But they can also massively undermine our work and our confidence. The “release early, release often” culture of web application development has made great advances in how we code for the web. But our front-end is still largely driven by the pursuit of “pixel-perfection”. As if somehow across the range of people who visit our websites — and the range of devices which they use — there can be something called perfection.
So let’s embrace the idea that perfection — whether in work or in life — is an artifice. Let’s turn our attention towards the journey rather than the destination and towards doing just enough rather than doing things just right.