No one is perfect. We all know this, yet society still tells us that we need to be perfect if we want to be successful. And society also tells us that we need to be successful because eminence and affluence are directly linked to happiness.
This is why we look to the Warren Buffets, the Mark Zuckerbergs, and the Alice Walton’s (pictured above) of the world as role models. They are the faces of unimaginable wealth, billionaires whose legacies will be written into history. But even these leaders don’t credit their success to being perfect. When describing his career, Warren Buffet once said, “We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds.”
In just nine words, Buffet shares why chasing perfection is pointless. The end result doesn’t matter; it’s how you get there. But I get it. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get fixated on results. It seems logical because outcomes and products are critical to a business. However, what makes this result successful is a devotion to your processes, actions, and developments. And these will never be perfect.
So you can’t strive for perfection. Instead, I’ve always said that you should accept imperfection and strive for excellence. Here’s why.
Wanting to be perfect makes you terrified of mistakes
Leaders often view mistakes as the enemy to success because it feels counterintuitive to growth when mistakes make the best teachers. As you go about creating products or building out processes, mistakes will show you where your weaknesses are.
The same is valid for how to run a business. I’m not the same business owner I was when I first started, and that’s better for everyone — my employees, my customers, and even myself. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting or you’re a decades-long entrepreneur; there is always room for improvement.
Making a mistake isn’t fun in the moment, but you’ll eventually look back on that mistake and be glad it happened. That mishap could be the reason you created an entirely new product or fixed an organizational issue that was reducing your company’s efficiency. Turning a blind eye to these learning opportunities because mistakes don’t fit into your idea of ‘perfect’ isn’t only destructive, it’s just foolish.
Great leaders know this and credit their missteps to helping them build their legacies. Thomas J. Watson, who served as the chairman and CEO of IBM, once said: “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” This is because mistakes make room for innovation. They encourage leaders to take risks and surpass even their own expectations. That is how you cultivate breakthrough companies.
Wanting to be perfect makes you susceptible to pressure
As it looks today, your company should not be identical to what it looked like when you first started. And a decade from now, your company shouldn’t look like it is today. You will spend every year evolving your business model into what you want it to be for your employees, customers, and yourself. New technologies, regulations, and changes in consumer behavior will continue to give shape to your brand. This takes time.
When people think of success, they believe there’s an aha moment that lets them know they’ve ‘made it.’ And because people want to feel that accomplishment as soon as possible, they tend to rush through everything. But if running a company has taught me anything, it’s that growth is gradual.
It’s said that business leaders are faced with around 35,000 decisions a day, most of them unconscious. Whether this is true or not, I’m not sure, although it does feel that way some days. But any decision you make, big or small, carries significant consequences. Make a bad decision; you’ll come to regret it later. But even good decisions can be disappointing. How is this possible? A good decision made by snap judgment might not be as advantageous as a solution that could have been refined with a little more time or thoughtfulness.
Leaders that make rushed decisions under pressure always end up regretting their choices. And a rushed solution could end up costing you in profitability, employees, customers, and industry reputation.
Wanting to be perfect weakens your authenticity
When you aim for perfection, you have to live up to those impossible expectations. Because this is, well, impossible, you’ll have to put on a facade to preserve your integrity. But this won’t fool anyone.
Your employees and your customers will see right through you, and things will soon start to snowball. It will undermine their trust in you, which will cause them to view you as disingenuous. And here’s what can happen: employees will leave because they won’t want to work for an insincere boss, and customers will choose to shop elsewhere because they don’t want to buy from inauthentic brands. Eighty-seven percent of people say authenticity factors into where they shop, so if perfection keeps you from transparency, you’re handing top talent and profits to your competition.
No one wants a perfect leader; they want realness and vulnerability. They want you to be what you are: human. Both your employees and customers want you to own up to your mistakes and demonstrate how you’ve learned from them, and they also want to be able to give you feedback that you’ll be receptive to. Leaders that chase perfection can’t do any of the above and their businesses suffer as a result. But my philosophy of striving for excellence has curated a culture of respect within my company, and it’s why so many people continue to come back to us for their products.
Perfection is a pipe dream. Don’t get caught chasing the impossible.