Today I got totally schooled, and it was amazing.
I should start by admitting that I’m a perfectionist. And not a “B.S. answer to the ‘what’s your biggest weakness’ interview question” kind of perfectionist, but an “I just spent 20 minutes pooping around the internet trying to avoid starting something because it might not turn out perfect” kind of perfectionist.
It was the end of the day, and there was a thing that had to get done. It was a spec for a new API endpoint, something I’d never done before. We’d talked in a good amount of detail about the (relatively simple) functionality the endpoint would support, but we hadn’t specifically written down how it would do that. I knew it was on me to keep things moving so I studied our existing API docs to get a sense for our conventions. Before I could spend too much time “studying” I realized I had half an hour before the staff meeting and then the day would basically be over. So I put my head down, pushed something out, and mentioned the relevant folks to get their feedback.
Sure enough it got torn apart. My basic sentiment was left in it, but the implementation was completely different, and 1000 times better. After I spent five minutes feeling really sheepish that had happened, I realized how awesome it was.
Here are the things that happened:
1. The spec gotten written in the right way, and we could start the project.
2. I learned how to design an API endpoint in a way I never would have had I just badgered my “boss” into writing the spec first.
Here are the things that did not happened:
1. I did not get fired
2. Nobody yelled at me
3. There weren’t even any snarky comments
If you want to be all “lean startuppy” about it, this is just failing fast. So I guess the moral is to write more shitty first drafts and get schooled more often.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life