The title of this article is from a quote I read, and when I read it, I knew it was about something great. If you get a chance, give Collabology.org a look.
A while back I found myself at an interview for a job, when the interviewer looked up from my resume and asked me, “what is your biggest weakness?” What a great question…
Every job seeker has probably prepared for this question, and has probably prepared for it in the same way. Who hasn’t heard the advice that you should answer with a weakness that could be considered a strength? I read something along those lines when I first entered the job market, and among the list of things to say was, “perfectionist.” After thinking for a bit, I realized that yeah, I am a perfectionist, and this was my go-to answer from then on.
So, when the interviewer asked me about my biggest weakness, without hesitation I answered “I’m a bit of a perfectionist.” My interviewer chuckled a little. He shifted in his seat and then he asked, “what is your second biggest weakness?”
Apparently, everybody is a perfectionist.
I should have realized what an attractive answer it was. I’m sure everyone can think of something they are a perfectionist about. The result is that calling yourself a “perfectionist” now is as meaningless as calling yourself a “hard worker,” or “results-oriented,” or a “team-player.
Needless to say, it’s not my go-to answer anymore.
Of all the perfectionists out there, I wonder how many have thought about why it might be considered a weakness in the first place? Let’s examine this:
- Being a perfectionist means being afraid of failure. If you want to learn and grow, failure is absolutely necessary. I don’t know of a single writer who wrote a book in one draft, a basketball player who never missed a shot, or a kid who learned to walk without falling. Doing great things, or even just good things, means taking risks. Fear of failure is a shackle on your best work.
- Being a perfectionist means being insecure about your work. This spells disaster for any project that requires a team of more than one person. Someone who is insecure about their work will spend a lot of time and energy trying to defend it. Energy that could be better spent iterating and making it better, if only the perfectionist were open to criticism.
- Being a perfectionist shows a lack of self-compassion. The perfectionist does not allow him or herself to be human and make mistakes. The rigid standards that a perfectionist must adhere to are a form of self-flagellation, and it fails to serve a meaningful purpose.
As you can see, in general, perfectionists just don’t have qualities that allow them to work well with others. Looking at these qualities now, I don’t know why anyone would want to label themselves as one.
Speaking from experience, perfectionism is something that seems a bit more common with creative types. That is because their work tends to be very personal. It’s hard to detach from creative work like you could if your work was an assembly line widget, a block of code, or a TPS Report.
That is why I find this quote and the work of Collabology.org so compelling. Whether you find “perfection” to be a worthy goal or not, being willing to take risks, make mistakes and “share imperfect work” will only help you grow and improve, not only your work, but your character as well.
Top Photo by: Nicholas A. Tonelli
“Fern Rock Nature Trail”
Licensed through Creative Commons