43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

The Perfection Uncertainty Principal

Maybe I'm just lowering my standards, but I'm beginning to believe that trying to create the perfect "thing" (presentation, lesson plan, movie, album) is a bit like quantum mechanics. As I understand the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, the position and speed of a particle cannot be simultaneously known. By observing it, you nix your ability to measure it's speed.

Now here's what's I'm starting to think:

By attempting to perfect that "thing", you're ensuring that it will never be satisfactory. By nature of inspecting it for ways to make it better, you're ensuring that you'll always see more things to fix, and in the process of "fixing" you're guaranteed to make more mistakes which will feed your need to inspect. So on, and so forth....

The underlying issue for me is the inability to release something into the wild before I feel it's "ready", which is the politically correct term for "perfect". The problem is that nothing is ever "ready" and I end up not letting something off the chain, for fear that I could make it better.

Then I think of all the things which I consider "ready" that everyone else has done. Nearly all of them reveal imperfections upon closer inspection. But somehow, the perfect filter only points one way. I add a perfecting filter to whatever someone else does, making it look and sound better than it is. But with my own creations, I'm unable to turn on the soft light, and instead shine the most glaring, unflattering white light in an attempt to locate flaws.

Maybe the truly perfect thing is one which is created by accident with no expectations. Like that song that was recorded in one take, maybe some things can't be improved by iteration.

Even as attempt to finish this forum post, I'm thinking of ways I could make it better.....




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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