There’s a fantastic story in Art & Fear about perfectionism:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.
One group would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, the rest solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.
Come grading time, a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
It’s counter intuitive, but I reckon it’s the truth.
If we focus on volume, we’ll produce a bunch of bad, awful, embarrassing work, for sure – but a handful of remarkable pieces of work will pop out somewhere along the way as well.
That’s the stuff that will get you the results you’re looking for.
Architecture firms who get the opportunity to design a lot of buildings over the years will produce a handful of really great projects that they become known for.
The same goes for creating content to share on your website and social media.
When we start doing anything new, like social media, or marketing, or even starting an architecture firm: we have a lot of theories, and no experience.
We love perfection – because we have great taste and a lot of theories. We idolise the people at the top of our industry who look like they’ve only ever put out perfect pots. But they didn’t. They made hundreds of pots – we just don’t see or notice the bad ones as much.
Bad stuff doesn’t catch on. Good stuff does.
The potential downside of a mistake is heavily outweighed by the potential upside of a truly great piece of work.
A lot of architects have a really big phobia of putting out something bad. A bad blog post. A bad Instagram story. A bad pitch email to a journalist.
But they’re not bad, they’re just your first attempt. Your standards are higher than your own abilities at the beginning.
You can’t skip your first attempt and go straight to the part where you know what you’re doing.
You’ve just got to get comfortable with that. You’ll get better, I promise.