Louis CK on Avoiding the Perfectionism Trap

It’s one thing to be told “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” and another thing to, well, actually not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Whether it is writing a paper or working through some task at a departmental meeting, there is the temptation to not move forward unless everything is just right, or until one knows everything is going to be just right. And since very little is ever just right, this line of thinking can get in the way of getting anything done. Maybe comedian Louis CK can help:

“These situations where I can’t make a choice because I’m too busy trying to envision the perfect one—that false perfectionism traps you in this painful ambivalence: If I do this, then that other thing I could have done becomes attractive. But if I go and choose the other one, the same thing happens again. It’s part of our consumer culture. People do this trying to get a DVD player or a service provider, but it also bleeds into big decisions. So my rule is that if you have someone or something that gets 70 percent approval, you just do it. ‘Cause here’s what happens. The fact that other options go away immediately brings your choice to 80. Because the pain of deciding is over.  And… when you get to 80 percent, you work. You apply your knowledge, and that gets you to 85 percent! And the thing itself, especially if it’s a human being, will always reveal itself—100 percent of the time!—to be more than you thought. And that will get you to 90 percent. After that, you’re stuck at 90, but who the fuck do you think you are, a god? You got to 90 percent? It’s incredible!”

He calls it the “70 Percent Rule.” Next time you’re stuck? Adaptive preference formation + momentum + a little optimism to the rescue. (via GQ)

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9 years ago

This is, by default, a 0% rule. The fact that you’re considering doing it means that you’re already inclined. You’ll always find endless reasons for doing something you’re already inclined to do. So, in every case you’ll be able to portray the option to yourself in some light that gives it a 70%. Then the rest follows.

In short, if you’re not completely torn in a way that paralyzes you, be sure to consciously and enthusiastically do anything you ever feel like doing. Great advice Louie. An overrated, mediocre comedian and an awful amateur philosopher. In fact, he’s a mediocre comedian precisely because he constantly uses comedy as an excuse to shovel his miserable amateur philosophy on us.

Reply to  Louie
9 years ago

“An overrated, mediocre comedian.” If anyone ever accuses me of not publishing comments that I disagree with, your post here is my defense.