The problem with perfect

Perfectionism is often touted as being a good thing, a sign that you are devoted to your work. But, argues Paul Jordan, ECD at ad agency Engine in London, it is in fact the opposite, and will only get in the way of you being at your most creative

This piece almost wasn’t written because I’m a perfectionist. Well, a recovering perfectionist actually. Most of my adult life I’ve been nurturing, embracing and wielding perfectionism. Courting it under the misapprehension that it was a positive character trait. Who wouldn’t want to be perfect, right? Come on admit it. You’ve probably dabbled in a little perfectionism yourself. We’ve all done it – spent far too long polishing a turd that should have been flushed around the u-bend much earlier.

In the past, whenever I was called ‘Perfectionist Paul’ or ‘OCD ECD’ I used to smile along. “Good,” I thought, “they can see how much I care, how exacting my standards are, how I’m willing to stay up all night to craft the living shit out of this tiny small-space ad that barely anyone will ever see.” I thought being called a perfectionist was a compliment. Vainly proud of a badge I didn’t really understand.

During these perfectionist episodes, Kevin Chesters (my old CSO) would sagely remind me of the Persian carpet weavers. Master craftsmen of the world’s finest rugs, who would deliberately weave a single imperfection into every carpet. They did this because they believed that only Allah is perfect. So surely, even the most egotistical ECD couldn’t compare himself with God, could he?