7 Apr 2013

Embracing imperfection

Quite a large part of our life revolves around things that are functional, but seldom polished. These things used to bother me. I don’t have OCD, but I equated the rough edges that I saw in things with somebody’s half hearted attempt at something.

I used do to a lot of design back when I was in college. I used to obsess over pixel perfection. Often I will show someone a finished design and ask them anxiously “Do you see anything strange with this?”. The reply would be “No it looks great!”. In my head, I will be thinking, “Maybe it’s just me who notices that the second heading is a trifle large and sticks out from the rest of the page”. I used to spend hours perfecting the copy, fonts and colors.

When I stepped into the working world – that’s when I learned the fine act of balancing between perfection and getting things done. Depending on what your job is, being a obsessive perfectionist can be either a blessing or a curse. However, more often than not it’s a luxury. While one appreciates the extra effort spent on going the extra mile on something, often the value one gets out of trying to achieve near-perfection is exceedingly small. Once deadlines are upon you, you’re forced to compromise on your lofty goal of striving for near-perfection.

Over time, I have learned to accept, embrace and love imperfection. I don’t suggest that we should all just settle for mediocrity. But it’s important to understand that perfection is a journey and not a destination. Imperfection is shipping things. Imperfection is getting things done.

These days, when I look at something that barely does its job but is neither elegant nor pretty, instead of feeling disappointed, I feel happy that it’s out there helping me do something. Perhaps somewhere else, someone else is toiling away, trying to perfect the same contraption, but will never launch it.

Hyperbolic? Perhaps, but probably not too far away from reality, as I see so many talented hackers work indefinitely on their side-projects without ever launching them. If you’re one of them, stop obsessing and start shipping.

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