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A few years ago my back began hurting. It eventually got to the point that I couldn’t sit in a chair for longer than five minutes.
As these things go, I ended up talking to a plethora of experts, who collectively assumed the pain was stress related. So I scheduled a few sessions to talk to a shrink.
Halfway through one of those sessions the shrink said “Well, you’re obviously a perfectionist.” Astonished, I looked at her and explained how I was most certainly NOT a perfectionist.
I’d always hated people who claimed they were perfectionists – people who never got anything done because everything had to be perfect. My modus operandi was to hack shit together, do the best I could, and launch. I live by the philosophy of ‘move fast and break things’ – ‘if you’re not embarrassed of the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late’ and ‘done is better than perfect’. Obviously that proved I was anything by a perfectionist, right?
My psychiatrist smiled and asked the following questions:
If I got upset when things didn’t go the way I wanted?
Wasn’t it true that I had very specific ideas of how things should go, and I had a hard time accepting if things turned out different?
Didn’t I constantly find bugs and small mistakes in my products, and freak out over them?
I swallowed hard, and for the first time in my life realized was, in fact, a perfectionist.
What I hadn’t realized until then was that there’s an important distinction between going for the best possible result under the circumstances, and true perfection. And that’s an important distinction to make.
No product or service is perfect – not Apple, not Google, and not my own work. And that’s all fine. The difference is that you try to envision a perfect product or service, then break it into steps to get you there, and try to make each iterative step as close to perfect as possible.
The moment I get frustrated and annoyed is when I see something that could’ve been so much better with a little bit more attention. For example: A few days ago I was in my car cursing out loud at Google Maps. The other people in our car didn’t understand what got me so worked up. I’d looked up an address and purely wanted to copy it to an email to send to someone. The block that showed me the address was titled ‘Dropped pin’ with the address below it. I held down my finger on the address, and copied it. But when I pasted it into the message, it only read ‘Dropped pin’.
That stuff irritates the crap out me but, but I understand that’s my own personal issue. I’m a perfectionist and while I shouldn’t get frustrated by little things, it just feels so sloppy to me. It shows that someone simply didn’t pay attention yet it could’ve been easy to prevent.
At the office, I’m called ’the tester from hell’ because no matter what product I test, I always break things and find bugs. So why do I find so many more bugs and mistakes than other people? That’s simple; I read every line of text, and click every link there is. That’s all there is to it.
And when I see one of those bugs, just like the one in Google Maps, I conclude that nobody in the Google Maps team cared enough to click every link and test every functionality before they launched. They didn’t care, and that frustrates me… and makes my back hurt.