Perfectionism kills Productivity

Perfectionism kills productivity by John Miller

I don’t post as often because I can never be perfect.  

My perfectionism kills productivity.  

I just snagged a copy of Jon Acuff’s book “Finish” and it’s helping me self-diagnose as a low-key perfectionist.  It’s unexpected because I’m fine with projects being “good enough.”  I don’t care if my house or office is hyper-neat and I’ll wear a shirt that has a little bit of ketchup on the front.  However, when it comes to writing, “good enough” still needs to be workshopped for another week until it’s “absolute, spotless perfection.”  I shoot for literary bliss, folks.  Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual steak. 

I’ll be honest, I want that Richard Foster status, that Francis Chan sheen.  I want to write the next Purpose Driven Life or Blue Like Jazz. I’m rarely confident enough to push “send.”  I have to remember that anything N.T. Wright pens, which to me is absolute gold, is still heavily criticized.  We cannot escape it.  There is no perfect, and that’s good for me.

I’ve preached sermons where dozens of people have come up to me and told me what an impact my message had on them while a few others send me a nasty email or even confront my co-workers about how terrible my sermon was.  I can expect that my whole life and career. 

I’m going to have typos.

I’m going to make mistakes.  And I’m going to write a piece (perhaps this one) that makes you say, “meh, I like his other stuff better.”  I’m coping with that. 

In “Big Magic,”  Elizabeth Gilbert talked about how she wished F. Scott Fitzgerald had kept writing, even if it wasn’t the success his earlier books had been.  He was paralyzed for many reasons, one being fear of bad reviews (a sneaky adversary to perfectionism).  He couldn’t write a perfect book.  But then again, none of us can.  None of us can write or perform the perfect anything! 

In sports, no NBA team has ever had a perfect season, or even gone unbeaten all the way through the playoffs. Even in the Dolphins perfect 1972 season, Bob Griese (who missed the majority of the season due to injury) threw only four touchdowns with four interceptions.  Perfectionism isn’t allowed.

It’s not that I’m going to stop trying to make things good, or quit editing what I write.  I’m just giving up on the illusion of perfection so I can clearly click “submit.” 

(Jesus juke:  God doesn’t require perfection out of us, either.  Take that nugget in case you want to count this as your “devotional” for the day)

Leave a comment:  What in your life have you never started (or finished) because you aspired to some sort of perfectionist dream? 

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