Is it necessary to be perfect

Why it's better not to be perfect

What motivates us all to buy flowers at short notice on February 14th of each year? Are we following an expectation or maybe we just don't want to step out of line? And what does all of this have to do with founding a start-up? I want to tell you that, of course - today it's about the topic of perfection.

"Want to buy a red rose?"

Let’s imagine we’re in the flower shop with a big bucket full of beautiful red roses in front of us. A flower on the far right would have a very special bloom. It immediately catches the eye. The edges of their petals shimmer a little orange. As a result, it is of course not as perfect as the other velvety red specimens. Which flower would you take for your loved one or your loved one (let's assume he is also happy about flowers)? I'm pretty sure almost everyone reaches for the perfect red roses. The special, slightly different rose with its orange nuances stays in the shop until the end of the day and, with luck, ends up in a bouquet with lots of green accessories. At least if the florist is good at business.

Why do we almost all want to give away the perfect red rose? Certainly not because nature only shows us these specimens. It's all about aspirations and expectations. Of course you want to tell your partner “I bought the perfect rose for you.” But isn't that more your own claim and possibly the fear of not doing something right. Perhaps the other person would have said that the rose with the orange edges is particularly unusual. Or if that person hadn't thought and said it, you could have told a wonderful story about it. Namely, that this special flower is like the person you want to give it to. Not red like all the others, but a special mixture with unique highlights. What would you have been more pleased about? To be a perfect red rose - like everyone else - or the unique combination of orange and red?

"The better is the enemy of the good"
But what drives so many of us to want to be perfect and where can that get in our way? If we want to be perfect, we are mostly afraid of criticism and of failure. We want to earn recognition for having done something supposedly perfect. You want to be flawless. But one thing is clear, nobody can achieve that. People are never flawless. And personally, I also believe that nobody should want to achieve that. Of course, I don't call for flaws, but rather the recognition that everyone can make mistakes and still be and remain a good person.

But we are trained at a young age to perform our tasks as flawlessly as possible. You only get a 1 at school if you have really done everything right. And what does that bring you for later life? I would say: nothing! If you are not gifted, this striving for flawlessness costs a lot of energy. You have to learn a lot and concentrate extremely. Always! Otherwise you could make a mistake.

It's not about upholding sloppiness here, but it's about getting the measure right. I myself have not always gotten things right in my life and keep making mistakes. Every day there are many opportunities to do the wrong thing or do something wrong.

But actually I've always learned the most from my missteps. Because sometimes they can point you in a new direction. If I always wanted to be perfect, then I follow a strict regiment and path. I am unfree and not very intuitive in what I do and in my thoughts. However, just a crazy idea needs a kind of courage to fill a gap.

An overview for you

The perfect idea

There are people who spend their lives looking for the perfect idea. And most of the time, these people will never put a product on the market. I see this again and again in the start-ups that I look after. What drives these people mostly is their perfect, own vision. This idea is something very valuable. Don't get me wrong. But I almost always need a lot of money for the really masterful product - that which I don't have at the beginning. So I have to go ahead with a kind of “salami tactic” and get closer to my brilliant idea, slice by slice. Especially with founders who are perfectionist, I notice again and again how difficult it is for them to think in these steps and not to get lost in their details. It's not about giving up this wonderful idea. Rather, it is about putting it into practice at some point. But if you approach it too perfectly, you either run out of money or run out of breath.
Because perfection is always a kind of stagnation and an obstacle.

"A good method that you follow is better than a perfect plan that you break off." (Ryan Andrews)
In conversations with founders, I always try to work out what is really necessary for the first steps - the small, first pieces of salami. The point is to make a decision in each area, how much effort you want to and can bring and when the effort in a matter really justifies the return. What use is a perfect website design if nobody comes to the site because I haven't thought about marketing or because I've run out of money by then. Or what use is a perfect prototype feel if nobody will ever touch my product because nobody can produce it profitably in this way. The perfection (note that it is a feminine word - of course without evaluation) paralyzes me in some places, it prevents the sometimes so necessary pragmatism and sometimes also uses energy for the wrong thing.
Of course, every idea has to come to some sort of maturity. And the level of quality must not be so inferior that it harms the brand or even the actual benefit. As with many things in life, it's about the right balance.

The perfect founder

Not only as a start-up coach, but also in the role of investor, I can say that perfection can even be a reason for founders not to invest in them. Of course, the focus is usually on the idea itself, but the people behind the matter are just as important. Because they are the ones who will work for this idea and with whom you may even work.

People who strive for perfection don't make mistakes, you might think. That's actually pretty good, but just as wrong. Just as those founders who always want to be flawless are less susceptible to criticism, more often stressed because they get lost in details and also have very high demands on others. They find it difficult to focus on successes and often just look at the mistakes. This can not only be exhausting for an investor or a consultant, it can also be a major obstacle for the founders themselves. Accepting criticism positively from experienced people is very important in order to take the right steps, especially as a start-up. To the extent that you don't feel attacked by the criticism yourself. Because in the end it's not about putting someone down, but showing them the right way. A person who combines his own worth and self-respect with his 100% performance and achievement will find it difficult not to understand criticism personally. This can prevent him from going the right way with full energy, because he is too busy getting angry about the supposed criticism.

In the same way, the small moments of success are the strength givers that give you energy again and again to carry on and to believe in your own idea. But if, instead of proudly appreciating these small successes, you only focus on the possible mistakes here, you yourself lose your strength and fun at some point. That's the death sentence for any idea.

In the end, all-too-perfect people are also poor leaders. In a growing start-up, the first employees come at some point. They then need a leading figure who can motivate and deploy the respective people where they have their strengths. People who want to be perfect and think that everyone should be perfect, however, expect that from others. And unfortunately that often backfires. It’s just the exciting thing to accept a person’s weaknesses and focus on their strengths in order to then further promote them - that’s what makes good leadership for me. Tolerance and the knowledge that nobody is perfect, but that everyone can do something really well, which is particularly valuable.

From martyr to messenger of love

On this special day, let's get back to our red roses and the past Valentine's Day. Because it is a wonderful conclusion that proves that sometimes unplanned, not perfectly thought-out coincidences write the most beautiful stories.

Have you ever wondered why Valentine's Day is lovers' day and why Valentine's day had something to do with it? This question has never occurred to me before, but with all the rose buyers in front of me, I have to get to the bottom of the real truth. Who better to ask than Master Google? And interestingly enough, the search engine spits this out to me:

“Saint Valentine was an Italian bishop and martyr. Why he was chosen to be the patron of happy togetherness cannot be clarified historically. In general: There are more questions and speculations about Valentin's life than reliable answers. The commemoration of the day may go to Valentine, who was Bishop of Terni in Umbria in the third century and died a martyr in Rome around the year 268. However, there are no direct sources on Valentine's life; its existence is only assumed by later, unreliable reports. "

Madness, just imagine. Nothing about Valentin is really perfect and yet it not only shapes a whole day, but even helps the entire flower industry to achieve record yields every February.

So, before it's my turn and buy a rose - of course one that has a supposed, but all the more wonderful flaw - I summarize again:

Do not see a mistake in otherness, but recognize what is unique in it. Because that stimulates your imagination and clears your mind. This applies to things as well as to you as a person. Do not strive for constant perfection yourself, but learn to let go and to solve and push things forward pragmatically. People with their own little vices are interesting and exciting right now. A person who looks perfect is actually kind of put off. Nor do you expect others to be perfect. This not only creates enormous pressure, but at some point leads to you doing everything on your own, because only you can do it perfectly. And I think you will be alone then because no one will meet your requirements. After all, always think about how nice it can be to give someone else room for ideas, changes and well-intentioned criticism. That doesn't hurt you, but gives the other person a comfortable feeling of being needed and being able to add value.

As a keynote speaker, I didn't speak to 10,000 people straight away, it just takes time. Take this time.

Stay motivated and imperfect to the right extent.