Perfection kills

Some 25 years ago, I published a printed directory for the association I worked for which ultimately won an ASAE Gold Circle award. I learned two things from that experience:

  1. Putting together a 400 page printed directory is incredibly tedious work.
  2. There was an old aphorism in the directory printing world that said “A printed directory is out of date the minute it hits the street.”

Even today, when directories are online and driven directly from the database, thus reflecting the most up-to-data we have, our online directories are still out of date the minute they hit the website. Because data is always changing.

The idea that our data can be perfect is a myth. The idea that our database management will be perfect is a myth. This is why perfection kills. Believing we can do something perfectly will keep us from ever trying anything.

If we set perfection as the level that we aspire to, not only will we fail, but we’ll also become frustrated and quickly learn not to try. Instead, set the level to which we aspire to be success, as we define it.

And that directory that won the Gold Circle Award? It had several errors in it (and MAN did I hear about it from my members!). But it was better than not releasing the directory at all. Don’t let perfection keep you from being successful.


About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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