Sloppy Success is Better than Perfect Mediocrity

By Paul Yung

Over the years, I have reminded myself of these wise words, especially when life gets hectic. And over the years the meaning of the sentence has evolved for me. This month, I wanted to share these words of wisdom with you.

At first, I thought that this sentence meant that it’s better to get something done rather than trying to get it perfect. This doesn’t mean that our work is sloppy. It’s about getting the task done first. How many times have you caught yourself procrastinating over an assignment, a project, a call because you wanted to get every detail just right.

Procrastination causes delays, increases stress levels, gets more work piled up and you could end up doing a sloppier job than you otherwise would have done had you completed it earlier. My mental trick for this daily, is to do the hardest task of the day first. When I get it done and dusted, I get a rush of adrenaline and attack the rest of my to do list with gusto. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “Done is better than perfect”.

My second insight is, success is sloppy, and mediocrity is perfect. As the saying goes “The master has failed, more times than the student has tried”. Everyone who has achieved any form of success will tell you that it took time to get where they are. The athlete, the home maker, the chef, the entrepreneur all started out as a novice.

What made the difference was their perseverance to see it through. Was their journey to success smooth? No! There were days when they just didn’t feel like doing it, the weather was too hot, the traffic was bad, but they still got on and continued striving for their art. They were not moving mountains daily; mountains are moved one stone at a time.

There is a concept called the aggregate of marginal gains, popularized by James Clear.

The idea is daily 1% improvements, aggregated over time is staggering.

Studies have shown that if you work out 30 minutes a day for 6 months, you will look more attractive than 95% of the population.

Put in a sloppy 1% daily, and 6 months later your changes would be staggering.

What about mediocrity is perfect? For those who never got started or didn’t persevere, it’s simple to imagine a perfect ending or point to countless reasons why they didn’t succeed.

I’m sure you have met people who constantly get excited and have an answer for everything; the perfect plan with no execution. 6 months later they are exactly where they started. Perfect Mediocrity.

My final insight is, getting started and learning from someone who has done it before, trumps the paralysis of overplanning. When I was younger, I desperately wanted to play club football. Instead of joining a club early on and learning, I decided to train by myself till I thought I was good enough to play with the team. Ego leered its ugly head. That was plain stupid. I didn’t know what I was doing and broke more windows than play actual football.

Be prepared to learn, to fail and go through the different stages of learning on your journey to mastery. Take it as a positive that you are growing and improving as a person, so enjoy the process and learn with someone who you trust and has gone through the same growth pains as you will experience.

There’s a saying that goes, too many people die at 30 but are buried at 80. This happens when we don’t try new things because of ego, fear of failure or stumbling at our first few attempts. Success is sloppy, and mediocrity is perfect. When you look back, will you regret what you have tried and failed, or what you haven’t tried at all? I wish you many sloppy successes