Excellence vs. Perfection

“The pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of failure.”

“The pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of failure.”

The thought came to my mind on my walk this morning.  It was undoubtedly prompted by meetings over the years with younger analysts who, because they wanted to find “perfect” answers to valuation problems, were (temporarily) unable to find any answer at all.

Having said it in my mind and then aloud, I reflected on the words.  The first thing I did was to check on Google to see if I was stealing someone else’s quote.  It does not appear so.

However, the sentiment reflected in the quote is certainly not new.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

-Attributed to Voltaire

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

-Salvador Dali

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” 

-Michael J. Fox

Perfection was reserved for Jesus on earth.  The rest of us are imperfect.  In fact, where judgment is involved, there is no such thing as perfect, since different, but good, judgments can be made by different people about the same question or issue.

Examples of imperfection:

  • What version of your software are you currently using? It must not have been perfect.
  • Why do manufacturers always bring out new models of their cars, machines, tools and other things? To make them better? Because they were not perfect.
  • In my field of business valuation, what is a “perfect” opinion? The best we can hope for are reasonable opinions that are well-supported and well-justified.
  • I recall a quote attributed to common usage in Silicon Valley: “You can’t optimize what you haven’t shipped.”

Am I suggesting that we should give up since perfection is unattainable?  Of course not.  Perfect must be, well, perfect.  Excellence, on the other hand, is worthy of pursuit.  And like business valuation, excellence is a range concept.  Consider this quote, which provides a bridge between excellence and perfection:

“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy.  The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.” 

-Edward Bliss

Excellence is attainable for many, if not most, at least in some areas of life.  Perfection is unattainable.  The pursuit of excellence is the roadway to success.  The pursuit of perfection is a downward slide to failure.

So, upon reflection, if:

“The pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of failure.”

Then:

“The pursuit of excellence is the pursuit of success.”

 

Until next time, be well.

-Chris

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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