Upon his death Leonardo da Vinci left only 30 paintings. He was known to have trouble completing projects. Da Vinci was a perfectionist and would make copious revisions to his work. He is believed to have said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
It requires a tremendous amount of effort to strive for perfection and to sustain all of the self-criticism required in one’s efforts to achieve it. Research has shown that perfectionism can hold us back – success is not achieved because of perfectionism but in spite of it. There is no way we can know if da Vinci’s perfectionism hindered or aided his success. It could be argued he would have published many more of his works and completed many more paintings if he hadn’t spent years dwelling over each one. It could also be argued that it was da Vinci’s devotion and gift for precision that led him to make so many revisions and rendered such famous results.
Either way, unlike today’s modern office worker, da Vinci could dither (though it’s assumed da Vinci only completed The Last Supper under pressure from his patron) and largely define perfection for himself. Da Vinci was the master, and no one was telling him the Mona Lisa would look better if her dress was red, repaint it please by one week from today or else.
In today’s modern work world, you are likely not your own master in defining perfection. Compromises must be made with peers and managers. Customers must be enticed. Shareholders must be satisfied. Hanging onto what you view as the one ideal solution and missing deadlines to fulfill it will impede your success, not convince those around you that you’re a genius. Until you can dictate your own terms, it’s best to view “perfect” as something fluid instead of fixed.