“Do it then it’s done.”

My Mother had a calendar behind the toilet door which gleefully listed such “common wisdom”. This was one of the gems. We laugh at such simplistic ideas; then busy ourselves over complicating our lives. Surely wisdom is more profound than that. Or is it?

Here’s another gem that could be lifted right out of the calendar:

“Done is better than perfect.”

The Pareto Principle

Successful writers talk about publishing a blog post when it’s 80% and fixing the issues once published. For example, the Escape Artist applies this “publish first, tidy later” approach to his writing.

There is great merit in this idea, variously called the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. If we aim for our “80% effort” we lower the requirement in our minds. The goal is less daunting and more achievable.

This idea is crucial for anyone with perfectionist tendencies. We are all flawed. Fear of letting others in on this secret tragically stops us from contributing our uniqueness at all. Thinking “80% effort” means accepting failure.

Personal experience has shown me that getting to my 80% takes one unit of energy and improving by another 5-10% takes a whole second unit of energy. The returns are diminishing.

Furthermore, in most endeavours, as we approach 100% of our effort “perfect” becomes far more subjective. This is obvious in creative endeavours, but I propose it is true for most meaningful endeavours.

Best of all, when we regularly practice this idea of giving “80% effort”, it makes great sense that our 80% starts improving in quality. We will fail many times and learn from each one.

Vblogbrothers talk about the power of 80% effort


This leads to the idea of failing fast. Much of what we will learn from this effort, this failure, will be learned in the first 80% of effort. Many failures eventually lead to success as we gain experience. We fail better. We make better mistakes.

I’ll have more to say about repetition and failing fast in my next article.

Categories: CreativityPhilosophy


making better mistakes: a journey of self-knowledge through experimentation, failure and growth


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