For most of my professional career, I’ve been in telecommunications. In telecom, there is a maxim:
That means that our systems (mostly telephones) must have 99.999% availability. They must work 99.999% of the time.
It’s kinda cute how they give one thousandth of a percent as wiggle room.
Does anybody really do everything exactly right 99.999% of the time?
Telecom systems get pretty close. I’ll tell you how we do it.
We have systems and we put these systems in place very very carefully. We make sure that every person/entity that touches our systems understand what the processes are and track what they’ve done.
We are very aware of any changes. We keep track of errors and even near-misses, the things that didn’t actually break but might have.
And the engineers that live in this world are very very specific kind of people.
We strain at gnats. We THINK about straining at gnats.
It’s a glorious environment for perfectionists. There are designs, plans, backup plans, tests and proactive measures.
There are reports and definitions and demarcations. It’s beautiful.
You know what there isn’t?
Creativity. This stuff is not meant to be played with.
We fear change. So much that there are very serious “Change management” processes.
And by change, there’s a really strict definition.
Upgrading a piece of software? SERIOUS change.
Swapping out one old server for a new server that’s exactly the same? HUGE change
That’s what allows this 99.999% to be remotely possible.
I say remotely, because it’s usually four nines. 99.993% or 99.996%
I did say that for most of my career I was in that environment. I did well in that environment.
Now, I’m in a different environment. A couple years ago, I was trying to understand why I found my days so exhausting. I realized, I am not getting that little payoff that I got when I performed a task and KNEW it was done precisely right.
I thought, “I’m not in the world of five nines…it’s more like nine FIVES!”
Getting it right more than half the time seemed like the goal.
And for most of the people in the world that is far more reflective of their reality. After all, the definition of “doing it right” is more fluid in life than in telecom.
For things like parenting and housekeeping, it’s more like retreat and call it a victory.
Perfectionism is not a progressive stance.
I am realizing that it’s worth exploring the idea of good enough.
Perfectionism can be a very tidy trap. It’s better to be done than perfect.