The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good By J.D. Roth
This article is the ninth of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly.
You want the best — for yourself, for your spouse, for your family. You want the best car, the best house and mortgage, the best job, the best mutual funds, and the best savings account. You want things to be perfect. We all do. But perfection comes with a price.
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Research has shown that those who are obsessed with perfection are more likely to have physical and mental problems than those who are open-minded and flexible. Perhaps worst of all, perfectionism costs time — and lots of it.
To find the best option — whether it’s the best dishwasher or the best mortgage broker — can take days or weeks or months. (And sometimes it’s an impossible mission.)
The pursuit of perfection is an exercise in diminishing returns:
Some initial research will teach you the basics.
A little more research will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
More research yet will enable you to make an informed decision.
Theoretically, if you had enough time, you might find the perfect option.
But each unit of time you spend in search of higher quality offers less reward than the unit of time before it. Here’s a graph of how time spent researching affects the quality of your decisions:
Quality is important. You should absolutely take time to research your investment and buying decisions. But remember that perfect is a moving target, one that’s almost impossible to hit. It’s usually better to shoot for “good enough” today than to aim for a perfect decision next week.
Procrastination is one common consequence of pursuing perfection: You can come up with all sorts of reasons to put off establishing an emergency fund, to put off cutting up your credit cards, to put off starting a retirement account. But most of the time, your best choice is to start now.
Who cares if you don’t find the best interest rate? Who cares if you don’t find the best mutual fund? You’ve found some good ones, right? Pick one. Get in the game. Just start. Starting plays a greater role in your success than any other factor.
When you spend so much time looking for the “best” choice that you never actually do anything, you’re sabotaging yourself. The perfect is the enemy of the good.