The cult of perfection gets ugly results

It’s not ready yet. 

It just needs this one additional tweek. 

I want it to be perfect before I let anyone see it. 

It’s not perfect yet. What will people think?

What will they think indeed.

If you are saying these things about a marketing campaign you are developing, you have a problem. 

The idea is sitting there and not being exposed to feedback. 

The idea is developing in the confines of your imagination. 

And if your imagination is focused on perfection, well, I’ve got some bad news for you.

It’s never going to be perfect. 

From a bird’s nest to Mars

If you’ve ever watched a bird make a nest, the process is simple. The bird gathers materials. Then they assemble those materials in a specific location. The location is chosen for its obscurity from predators. 

The nest sits firmly in this location based on a somewhat haphazard structure. It’s twigs and pieces of organic debris.

The final product has a job to do. It will hold the new birds safely until they are ready to move on to their own.

When all the leaves are off the trees in the winter, you will see these nests sprinkled around town. They look poorly placed and obvious. But in the spring, they disappear in a camouflage of leaves.

And every year they are there, no matter what the weather.

Are they perfect? No. But they get the job done and done well. It’s good enough. 

On the other end of the scale would be something like a rocket ship or piece of space equipment. 

In the book: Think Like a Rocket Scientist, Ozan Varol tells the story of how they figured out how to land the Mars rovers. Two of them. 

The rovers had to be well built to survive the harsh Martian conditions. But to land them, NASA had to consider a series of unknowns. 

What they did know was that they had already destroyed one rover on a previous mission. 

So they developed a balloon-like device to land the rovers safely. 

And it worked. 

If they had tried to be perfect, there would never have been a mission. We wouldn’t have the amazing images of Mars. And Elon Musk would know a little less about his destination. 

Unfinished things invite feedback

Think about the last time you saw something that was new and unfinished. It was likely a bit ugly. You may have started thinking about how it could be better. In some cases, the improvements seem so obvious you might have wondered why someone hadn’t done them already. 

Maybe they are in the planning stages. It could be next. 

Or maybe, the creator didn’t see it. 

Perhaps it was intentional. 

There is something elegant about something ugly and unfinished. It allows for imaginations to run wild. It creates a space for improvement. 

It’s like an invitation to think and explore. To criticize and provide alternative scenarios or suggestions. 

Imperfect things invite feedback.

And that feedback gets you moving forward, faster. 

You are a work in progress too

If you are into weight lifting, you may have had periods where you stop for an extended period of time. Maybe you were worn out or too busy with other priorities. 

Over that period, you probably lost some weight as your muscles atrophied. 

Your clothes may have fit a bit looser. 

Maybe you got a bit flabby. 

During that period, your body began to revert. 

Your body is a constant work in progress. 

It requires persistent and regular inputs to turn over cells and to grow. As the late Charles Eugster demonstrated, you can build muscle well into your 90s. But to do that, you have to work at it. 

The body is in a constant state of flux. It may be perfect temporarily, but its state is one of growth or decline. 

Growth is a result of input. Decline is the absence of effort and input. 

And this is a great way to think about your idea, startup or business generally. 

These are all like the human body. They are either growing or declining. They may have periods of temporary perfection, but that is only temporary. Constant input drives future growth.

Be a Renaissance founder

In a class on the Italian Renaissance, I recall hearing how artists at the time viewed their work. It was to be created and submitted for judgment from the public. 

And sometimes, judgment is harsh. 

But the interplay between creation and judgment is a virtuous circle if you let it. 

As you think about your marketing, emphasize the desire for input. Let it be a bit ugly to drive curiosity and imagination. From this may come crucial feedback. 

Your project might be on track or off course, but in the pursuit of perfection, you won’t know until it’s too late.

And without that crucial outside input, you won’t be learning, your idea won’t be advancing.

In other words, you will be in decline. 

If you’re sitting there with an idea, a new funnel, or a campaign. Take a moment and consider the question you shouldn’t ask and the one you should. 

You shouldn’t be asking yourself if it’s perfect enough to release. 

You should be asking if this is just ugly enough to entice your audience’s imagination and elicit feedback.

Now, choose imperfect, and put it out there. 

They’re waiting for you. 


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