“With a library it is easier to hope for serendipity than to look for a precise answer.”
— Lemony Snicket
Here’s your midweek newsletter — a gentle nudge to make your week more interesting, thoughtful and productive.
The Opportunity Cost of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is often frowned upon. It’s called disguised procrastination. It’s called the mother of inaction. However, the more I read things like that, the more I see examples that paint perfectionism as this evil that is preventing us from reaching success (however we define it), I seem to see two different branches.
To me, perfectionism is perfectly alright as long as two tenets are fulfilled: you publish, submit or release whatever it is that you’re working on, and two, the opportunity cost is worth it.
I want to talk about the second one because the first one is obvious. If you’re not putting something out at all, then you’re definitely using perfectionism as a shield from potential feedback.
The second one is interesting, though. Before that, let’s quickly check what opportunity cost means. Simply put, it comprises the potential opportunities you miss when you prefer or choose one option.
When it comes to perfectionism, it depends on whether perfecting each nook and cranny of your project, whatever that may be, is worth perfecting. Michelangelo’s David wouldn’t have been Michelangelo’s David if he was not a perfectionist. There’s no way Leonardo da Vinci or Steve Jobs could’ve had the impact that they had if they were not perfectionists.
The key difference between them and someone just slacking is that they recognised what was to be perfected and what was to be pushed out prematurely.
For example, if you’re working on say a visual for your social media where content is as transient as a teenager’s mood, and you obsess over each little line (like I did last night and spent three hours on a design that I still don’t like or enjoy), you’re doing it wrong. The opportunity cost is too high!
The time I spent on that one design could’ve easily been put to another project or even, you know, sleeping.
So, perhaps, it’s not perfectionism that is to blame but the idea that selective perfectionism isn’t more rampant. You should definitely be meticulous about treating your partner, for example. That is where you strive for perfectionism, even if it is an impossible standard to reach.
I believe that the average life is complex enough for there to be places where we’re extremely particular about details and minutiae, and at the same time, places where publishing something, doing something, and equivalent could trump over perfectionism.
We need to become selective perfectionists.
The Serendipitous Doing of Things
Some ten days ago, I sat with Adobe Illustrator’s blank canvas open in front of me, and I started to create an image. This was me trying to trace a picture of a hill in my hometown in a new style. I created two of these and shared those with friends and even the Visualize Value community.
People started to like them, and I was enjoying what I was doing. The reason wasn’t as outlandish. It was the first time since eleventh grade (over seven years) that I had a software open without knowing what I was making on it.
I started doing these every day, and all of a sudden Slumbering Hollow was born. I’m not sure what it is about yet. I might take commissions. I might sell a wallpaper pack. I might just never make anything out of it. The idea is that I have a lot of fun when I sit down at night, making these images.
It’s oddly relaxing, and at the same time, I don’t plan on much. I just pick a photo, and I let the colours come from a random, fortunate place in my head. I let the style evolve. I put a sun on the most recent one right before I was about to save and export it.
This little event with the first image and now a growing collection made me realise why I enjoyed playing around on Photoshop and Illustrator as a kid and then, a teenager. It was just me doing random stuff on it. Just practising. Just using the tools and seeing what does what. Then, I started taking it too seriously.
What do you do today, and why do you do it? I’m sure your first experience (or a bunch of those) would’ve just been fun if you like what you do right now. Try going back to that serendipity and randomness. If I were to tickle my data science side, I would start playing around with a random dataset in RStudio because that’s how I began. That’s why I liked it. The job, the mentorship, everything comes later.
Sometimes, we need to go back to why we started in the first place. The answer is almost always: because it was fun and random.
To Read: Julian Baggini’s The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten
“Any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs there.“
If you’re adept or even remotely versed with philosophy, this book isn’t for you. These are armchair experiments, all in a simple format, expressed within jokes and small what-if questions.
The thing is, this book is amazing if you’re starting to get into the idea of thinking about thoughts or philosophy. If you want to understand the most basic ideas, concepts and questions, this book is a wonderful way to start and venture into that side of the world.
To me, this book was a gateway drug, and I’ve been hooked since. If nothing else, it’s an entertaining read if you don’t take it too seriously.
What’s On My Mind?
The idea from The Psychology of Money that suggests all people invest based on their subjective experience. I feel that it isn’t just about investing money. It stands for time, resources, attention, everything.
Quick Update On Nudge › How
Last week, I wrote one of the most important things I wanted to talk about for a long time: money mistakes. I talked about nine mistakes that I made ever since I started earning back in 2015. I talked about how I rectified each situation. I hope you find value in my mistakes.
Note: There’ll be no Midweek Nudge next week. Nudge › How will resume with Thursday Tryouts starting next Thursday. That’s a week off owing to the festival season in India. I’ll be spending time with friends and family.
I hope this added some value to your week. Stay safe, stay inspired, and I’ll talk to you next week.