Perfect is the enemy of done
"Everything Starts Out Looking Like a Toy" (No 45)
This week’s toy: a keyboard you can play on your keyboard. No, this will not make up for any piano lessons during elementary school where you hadn’t completed your practice that week. Edition No. 45 of this newsletter is here - it’s May 15, 2021. (It’s true, I missed a week and didn’t publish. Here’s to starting a new streak.)
The Big Idea
“Perfect” is an illusion. Getting everything done is not often going to happen. Well, maybe never. So why do we focus on 100% completion?
Memes like the one above help us to see the reality: that most of us are figuring out what we’re doing one thing at a time. At our best, we know what we need to do, we know that it’s important, and we get it done at a high level of skill. Yay us!
Most Things Are Messy
The reality is that we do not have 100% clarity on what we need to do: at work, at home, or wherever. And the people we are working with do not have clarity either. So just getting to shared understanding on a project, a goal, or a task is awesome! Except it’s not usually enough to get to an agreement.
I read recently in a workshop that among married or long-term couples in a relationship, about two-thirds of the problems they share will never be solved. Yet many people persist in having happy relationships. So what’s the secret?
There is No Secret
Identifying the important things that need to get done - in your work, in your relationships, in your communication - starts with the communication. By building the skill of asking for you what you need, you gain the opportunity to work with the other people in your life and get closer to 100% done.
Many things might feel like the illustration above when you are doing your best and it isn’t turning out the way you expect. But perhaps the problem is the expectation that it should always go well, that it should always be easy, and that you’ll always be able to get it right.
The Practice of Practice
So get started today on having a few more hard conversations. Make it your job to do one thing really well - the 100% case - and see how it feels. Maybe you will want to do more things at the highest level (maybe you won’t). I am certain that even if you are the best in the world at what you do, and your usual effort looks like 100% to other people, it’s not possible to do your 100% effort 100% of the time.
Pick your battles. Move the projects forward. And believe that on the days when you are “doing your best” and it looks like the image above that it’s going to be ok.
What’s the takeaway? Spend more time identifying the key conversations and projects you need to work on and less time working on everything. Your time and energy are limited and you (sadly) can’t get everything done at a high level. Find the 3% of things worth doing at 97% effort.
A Thread from This Week
Twitter is an amazing source of long-form writing, and it’s easy to miss the threads people are talking about.
This week’s thread: on developing intellectual curiosity.
Links for Reading and Sharing
These are links that caught my eye.
1/ Brain food - your brain thinks spatially. It literally visualizes ideas in physical space as a way of conceptualizing and memorializing them. As an associative thinker, I love this idea. If you’ve never considered this, read Moonwalking With Einstein - a great book on memory.
2/ Do you believe everything you see? - Video games are getting more realistic all of the time, but you might have noticed that they often seem more “hyper real” than reality. A team is working on a neural net to process these images in real time so that GTA5 looks more like it would look if you were actually a passenger in the car. Putting aside for the moment the possibility of better deep fakes, this is sort of amazing.
3/ What is an aggregator? - Market makers include individual companies that make great products, marketplaces that bring together buyers and sellers, and aggregators of information or other scarce resources. What are aggregators? Ben Thompson of Statchery gives us a primer.
On the Reading/Watching List
Brad Stone has a new book out on Amazon - it promises to be as good at his last book The Everything Store. If you want to know what’s next for the Amazon empire, check out Amazon Unbound.
Also, Loki is arriving soon to Disney+ (squeeeeee).
What to do next
Hit reply if you’ve got links to share, data stories, or want to say hello.
I’m grateful you read this far. Thank you. If you found this useful, consider sharing with a friend.
The next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” - Chris Dixon