The path to perfection is like making pancakes.

I am not a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a curse. While it pushes you to create the highest quality result possible, it is paralyzing. Because life is not perfect. And if you need it to be you are highly unlikely to get the first version of a new creation out the door in time to make a difference. A difference to you, to the world, to those you can serve.

Instead of a perfectionist’s mindset, I have adopted a pancake-making mindset. If you have ever flipped a flapjack you would bet Mrs. Butterworth that the first pancake won’t turn out quite right. There is some combination of temperature, oil, and griddle seasoning that can’t seem to get synchronized in time to make that first pancake just right. So it always falls short of the glory.

But don’t let that frustrate you. Ask yourself, ‘What would Denny of Denny’s do?’ (#WWDODD or simply #WWDD)

The Prince of Pancakes would work through that first pancake and get to the next round of griddl’n. Because the improvement in the next batch of pancakes is always remarkable.

Real World Example

Right now I am putting the finishing touches on my first book called, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And I can’t help but think that I have done something wrong in the creation of this book. Maybe I should have made it different in some way. Maybe it should have been longer. Or shorter. Or funnier. After all, I never sprayed milk out my nose while proofreading it.

Maybe my dedication is off. I reworded it about 25 times. (Which shows my dedication to my dedication.) Maybe my bio is too unbio-y. Maybe I didn’t finish it early enough, which caused me to miss the bulk of the holiday gift-giving window. Maybe I shared too much value and would have been better off splitting it into multiple books. Like a cliffhanger-ending double-episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. #yeeeeehaw

Instead of letting my second-guessing about the book stop me, I’ve pushed through. It is my first pancake. I have to make it to be ready for something even better to follow. The second printing of the book would be better. The next book I write will certainly be better in some way.

I have no shame or embarrassment in this. Neither should you. It is how life works. You go and do and try and learn and improve. You can only do what you can do with the conditions as they exist. Each new attempt means that you add more experience to the conditions. Which gets you closer to the ideal. It is the process of perfecting over time that I enjoy. Like a good pancake, covered in real Vermont maple syrup.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to make your first pancake. It will be less than perfect in some way. But simply by making the first one you will improve, learn, and grow. That is how you make amazing things. Make your first version, and let the challenge of improvement drive you to keep improving. Keep stacking up your attempts like pancakes. It is the true path to perfection.

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Why your next hire should be an Imperfectionist.

To build a great business you need to collect great people.  But what makes people great, and thus collectable, is certainly a topic of debate. I am sure you have your own trait that you think makes you a valuable addition to an employer. You’re organized. Or energetic. Or creative. Or not easily bored.

I spend a lot of time interviewing candidates for our ad agency. And there’s one label I have heard more than all others. In fact I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard people proudly state, ‘I am a perfectionist.’ This proclamation makes me want to throw up. Because I believe that in an idea business like advertising perfection works against you.

That’s why I proudly consider myself an Imperfectionist. So what does that mean? It means I value progress in any form. I am quite comfortable dreaming up and then sharing half-baked ideas. Or writing a first draft and passing it around for a reaction. Why? Because unbaked and half-baked ideas are available faster than fully-baked. And often times a team simply needs a ‘for-instance’ to get moving in the right direction.

I enjoy sharing ideas that are still in a moldable state. They enable others to help form, modify and improve the ideas before they’re finished. As an Imperfectionist I embrace the process of creating, testing, learning and improving. I love working in an environment that recognizes the great value in being aggressive.

Today, speed is king. In the agency business we need to act quickly to help our clients take advantage of short-lived opportunities and to thwart threats.  This puts a premium on quick thinking and swift action. We no longer live in an era that rewards you for sitting alone in your office making sure your ideas or your presentations are bulletproof.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Once our team has determined a direction and we move into the execution phase, every detail matters. I will question the kerning, analyze the delivery of a line, and poke at a transition until I’m absolutely convinced we have it right. There is a time and place for this type of scrutiny.  And I believe it’s at the end of the process.

So find yourself more Imperfectionists. Explore more. Fail fast. And improve faster. It is the difference between doing and dreaming. Action and inaction. Talking and walking. It may not be the perfect approach for everyone. But it works perfectly for me.