Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Pursuit of Perfection

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses the pursuit of perfection vs. meeting spec and what we should keep in mind when we ship creative work.

Sometimes we look down on meeting the spec and be good enough. However, if we do a good job defining the specification, meeting specs, and being good enough can be a good thing. When we define the spec correctly and meet it, quality comes with doing the work.

Achieving quality is not the same as the pursuit of perfection. Perfection can be quite costly, and not many people are willing to pay for absolute or near perfection. However, most people are willing to pay for good-enough if meeting spec means helping them get what they are after. Good enough, when done right, is something to be proud of.

These days, bringing our creative work to the world is our job. If our work does not ship, the effort does not count. Also, we do not want to ship just for the sake of sending something and check off the box. We want to set spec appropriately and then “merely” shipping the work.

Merely shipping means doing it without the usual commentary, drama, and perfectionism. Hour after hour and day after day, we consistently ship the work in the hope of making things better. Seth calls this continual process and approaches the “practice.”

By adopting the practice, we believe that the only way to make things better is to make things. We learn what the customer wants and learn how to engage with the market to make them better.

However, we are not shooting for perfection — we are shooting to meet the spec. We want to meet a spec that is good enough for our customers. We do not say whether our spec is good enough because our customer will. We also ship when we must because, by shipping our work, we put ourselves in front and engage with the person we make the thing for. If what we ship turns out to be not good enough for our audience, we are doing shoddy work, and we must make it better.

Creative means we are doing something that might not work. Doing creative work means doing something where perfect is unknown. Good, creative work also means we will be doing something human, something generous, and something that might make things better.

Doing creative work as a professional means we do it even when we do not feel like it. Perfectionism is about us, our belief, our perception of what we’re doing, and it is also a place to hide. On the other hand, remarkable work is not about us but about the person we are making it for.

Being a pro also means we must figure out how to show up for the people we seek to serve and ignore everyone else. This act of being specific is about making a very specific promise about what our thing does do. Thus we must be able to find our smallest viable audience and bring them the smallest viable breakthrough they can leverage.

In summary, we need to develop a practice of shipping regularly for the people we seek to serve. We must never accept shoddy work because it does not make any sense to make something not as good as it should be. More often, we will likely be making things that are not as good as they could be because we do not have unlimited time and resources.

So yes, we need a point of view for our work. We need to make assertions, and we need to lead. We need to be able to say, “Here, I made this. No, it is not perfect, but maybe it met spec. And maybe my spec is exactly what you needed.”