perfect isn’t so great

I’ve been a professional nerd for more than a decade now. And for more than two decades I’ve been an amateur nerd. One characteristic of nerds, is that they understand the precision that computers require. Computers want everything to be right.

The details. The extreme accuracy that computers require make it easy for nerds to indulge in the temptation to be as perfect as possible in all areas. It is not just nerds that feel that way too.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell talks about something like this. He points out how everyone is in love with high IQ scores; the higher the better, right? Except after a certain point, it stops mattering. After you get to a level, the rest is gravy. What’s the point of extra credit after you get an A?

But it is more than that too. After we grow up, it’s not a matter of A’s. Other things take their place. And I am forced to contemplate the dubious value of quality.

Chris had a great business selling little ships on a website for a long time. Together, we made a beautiful engine to sell ships and he took beautiful detailed photographs of the little ship models that showed exactly what he was selling. We had an excellent inventory, and a great place for our customers to come visit. It was undeniably superior to everything else out there.

But what actually happened was not a meteoric rise in sales. What happened was the customers would come to our site, look at the pictures and buy from our competitor who was a little bit cheaper on about half of what we had. Quality was not the deciding factor.

Sometimes being perfect is the easy way out. But being really perfect in one area doesn’t make the other part any better. And focusing on the part I already know means I’m not spending time on the part I am bad at.  Like, writing perfect penmanship is cute, but that doesn’t make what I am writing more profound.


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