Progress Over Perfection

I have written previously about the benefits of striving for excellence rather than perfection.

Perfection is based on an external standard - an impossible to achieve one I might add. Excellence is about striving to be the best you can possibly be. The standard is one set by yourself. The goal is to be YOUR best self, as opposed to chasing someone else's idea of what you should be.

One way to do this day-to-day is to value progress over perfection. If you are developing a skill to a level of excellence, then focus each day on making progress in that direction.

Progress can take the form of improvement from one day versus the next. This is useful. If you keep improving every day, you keep getting better.

Progress can also appear in the form of a failure or setback. As you may recall, I prefer the word "feedback" to failure. In my world, there are only successes and feedback. There is no failure.

"Failure" can often be a form of progress because it often provides "feedback" on what NOT to do going forward. This is a profoundly useful insight and therefore it IS progress.

In the perfection paradigm, failure is to be avoided at all costs.

In the progress paradigm, failure is welcome (even if it is painful at times) because of the useful lesson and feedback it provides.

The reason I prefer the excellence and progress paradigm over perfection is because in the former it is much easier to be persistent in your goals.

When you're wedded to the perfection paradigm, anytime you fall short, there's an enormous emotional incentive to say, "I stink at this. I am SO far away from perfection. I will never achieve it. I should just quit now, it's hopeless."

In the progress paradigm, the goal is simply to be better today at something than you were yesterday. That's it. There will never be a point in your life where you can't get better at something than you were yesterday. It is a goal that is both very achievable and a goal that you will never be done achieving. That is the wheel point of EXCELLENCE.

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4 comments… add one
  • DAVID ALAN JONES RIDGE Jul 13, 2020, 5:14 pm

    Also remember:
    Practice Does Not Make Perfect,
    Practice Makes Permanent
    Practice makes permanent, not
    Practice will turn anything you do into a habit, good or bad. It’s true.
    “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” -Winston Churchill.
    “Focus on progress not perfection.”
    — Bill Phillips

  • Avi Jun 18, 2015, 9:55 am

    Hi Victor

    Same above as what Svante has said. I came across your website a few years ago when I was doing my MBA and wanted to enter into Management Consulting. I was however unable to get into Consulting (instead been doing good industry jobs). Nevertheless I didn’t stop reading your emails and continue to do so.
    I am so looking forward to ‘How to develop incredible self-confidence and unshakable self-esteem’ since I have through my experiences realised that self-confidence and self-esteem are what is absolutely necessary to have a good career AND an enjoyable personal life.

    Keep up the incredible work you do and keep motivating thousands like me to strive to achieve more.


  • Svante Jun 16, 2015, 2:54 pm

    Hi Victor,

    A few years ago when I was about to graduate I started to look into the world of management consulting and found your page. The material you provided gave me a lot of insight but after a couple of interviews I realized that this was not the area I wanted to work in. I however really liked the things you wrote so I kept on reading your mails and posts.

    Why am I writing this? Well, I really want to thank you for the insight and experiences you share in your posts, e.g. this one. Your mails have not only come to make me a better person but also people around me. You probably already know it but I just want to encourage you further with saying that the words you share can have great impact on many people who might not even have a clue of what a management consultant is, have no idea what a Fortune 500 company is or even what the word revenue means. Know that your encouraging and insightful words changes people to the better.
    Thank you for what you do!

    Best regards,


    • Victor Cheng Jun 16, 2015, 6:31 pm


      Thank you for your very kind words. You are quite welcome.


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