Between perfection and performance

The psychology of learning:

“The people in the category perfection-oriented have a natural intellectual curiosity. They are constantly searching for better ways of doing things, new methods, new tools. They search for perfection, but they take pleasure in the search itself, knowing perfectly well that perfection can not be accomplished. To the people in this category, failure is a normal part of the strive for perfection. In fact, failure gives a deeper understanding of why a particular path was unsuccessful, making it possible to avoid similar paths in the future.

The people in the category performance-oriented on the contrary, do not at all strive for perfection. Instead they have a need to achieve performance immediately. Such performance leaves no time for intellectual curiosity. Instead, techniques already known to them must be applied to solve problems. To these people, failure is a disaster whose sole feature is to harm instant performance.” [emphasis mine]

I have to admit, though I’d like to think that I’m the former, I recognize that, in my work, I am mostly the latter. I like building things because I like to see them work, rather than the procedure that gets me there. So when things aren’t working, I’ll get frustrated debugging, and just start stabbing randomly in the dark. Then a couple hours later, I’ll figure it out, and proclaim that someone should “give me back my youth.”

I’ve been trying to change my programming habits so that it’s the former. I once lamented to IXM that I’m taking too much time getting going; to which he quipped, “Well, it’s the learning curve. As long as you’re learning something, it’s ok.” Rarely do people say something that make me feel better, but this one made sense.

However, there’s another side to this. Sometimes, I will be the perfectionist, and go to degrees that I shouldn’t, because the aspect of the work that I’m being a perfectionist at doesn’t really matter in the visible short or long term. It only bothered me aesthetically. In this case, I have to remind myself to move on, or else I’ll be shaving yaks soon.


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