Perfectionism is the Perfect Excuse
Too often I hear that someone is gooooing starting a company. We just need a bit more money.
A friend was starting a TikTok, quite early in the hype-cycle of TikTok, and they’d filmed 3 or 4 TikToks, but none were published. Not quite polished enough.
Perfectionism is a fear of judgement, an excuse not to take the leap, and it’s a good one. It’s never going to be perfect and so it’s the infinite justification to never leap.
Complexity is not an end, and NOT a start
Even people with every intention of finishing, though, fall into the trap of complicating things early on.
You want to track your finances? You don’t need a Postgres database feeding a Grafana dashboard analysing your effective tax rate and expenditure break downs by percentile. You probably need a 4 column spreadsheet. It’s good enough for most small businesses.
You want to write a new service that handles user auth? You’ll run yourself dizzy with all the options here, have no way of testing it, and never be able to ship because there’s still edge cases unhandled. Start simple. Support a specific format of JWT, test for it, and fail everything else. Now you can ship.
Act fast, not fancy
Complexity shouldn’t be your end goal, and it really shouldn’t be your starting point either. Fight the urge to turn your quick project into a frightening behemoth. Ship the smallest acceptable piece and get feedback.
Early complexity makes your project brittle to change. No plan survives first contact with the customer, even if you’re the customer. Stay simple, and retain flexibility.
Get going, then get good
Fear of judgement is a perfectly reasonable fear which I battle with daily. Wanting to do it all is a noble wish, though doomed.
Iteration happens over the course of steps, so make each step small, get feedback, and improve. If you’re a perfectionist, the fastest route to being great is through feedback.
It’s easy to let a small project grow, and never finish. Focus on shipping and improving.
To remind myself of this I have a core value, which lives with me in every decision:
Get going, then get good.
Relax your constraints
You might want a note-taking system that aggregates by subject and provides a beautiful timeline. But it will require significant time and effort to construct. Instead of delaying all writing until you’ve constructed this perfect system, relax your constraints. The most fundamental thing you need is a place to write stuff.
Constraint relaxation is an algorithmic concept for getting a reasonable answer to a complex problem. Take a simpler version of the problem, and solve that. From that baseline, you can figure out small tweaks and improvements over time. You might find those other requirements would not have been that useful, anyway.
Start with the easiest, least sophisticated, simplest thing that works.