Be Perfect Later

I started off this morning watching this really intelligent presentation by Kathryn Minshew for 99U called "7 Classic Startup Founder Mistakes and How to Avoid Them".  The one mistake that really stood out for me was the one she calls "Perfect vs. Done". This is a trap I fall into all of the time, and since I'm writing this at the cusp of busy season, I think it is very relevant.

For me there is a constant tension between designing a product to completion and making a product to sell. I know a lot of people who have this same issue. I can't tell you how many people I've met that have failed to execute a really great idea because they never felt it was ready.

The thing I am starting to realize is that what I'm trying to make will never be ready. It will never be perfect. Worse, if I spend all of my time trying to make something that is perfect I'd never make anything at all. Even if I managed to put something out there that I thought was ready, in a year you could show it to me and I'd tell you all the things wrong with it.

This can be a trying struggle because I can't (no one can) make something that matches the ideal in my mind, but I'm also responsible for making something to sell.

I have come to realize that this is an issue of perspective. From my perspective I want to execute a flawless design. Like any good craftsman, I always want to produce my best work and any shortcomings in my execution are viewed as failures. From my customer's perspective, they want to buy a good that will provide value in their life.  Where I see a product that never quite lives up to the idea in my head, my customers see something that looks good and holds their business cards.

Will I produce something better next year? Will that card holder be more "ready" next year? I really hope so. Is it wrong of me to sell that card holder today even though I know it will be better tomorrow? Not if I'm producing it to the best of my ability. If I am doing my job right the person that buys my card holder today will enjoy having it enough to want to seek me out in the future. If I'm really doing my job right they'll be even happier with what I make down the road.

The trick seems to be to always reach for the ideal in your head for tomorrow, but produce something you can live with today.