Struggling with Perfectionism

The question about my greatest weakness has been raised in almost all my job interviews. Many books on job interviews discourage people from construing a strength as a weakness. One of my greatest weaknesses is my drive for perfection. When I perform a task, I want its completion to approximate perfection. Paying attention to details in workmanship and quality is viewed by many people as a positive characteristic for an employee. Being obsessed and compulsive about achieving perfection at the levels that are satisfactory to me actually serves as a big drawback.

My high school English teacher made me aware of my perfectionist nature. She told me that my persistent drive toward perfection would be a source of many failures. With the memory of her warning imprinted on my mind and some introspection, it is easy for me to remember instances when perfectionism caused failure. I state that perfectionism is my greatest weakness for this reason.

As a project milestone draws near, I feel my desire for perfection resurface. My apparent options are to continue developing an environment that will simplify future tasks with the cost of missing the milestone or delay the development of the environment, switch to a brute-force coding effort, and attempt to reach a milestone with a low probability of success. I believe that game theory calls this a “lose-lose” situation. I am, however, driven to lose this situation in such a way that winning future situations is easier.

Although I see perfectionism as one of my shortcomings, I believe that perfectionism or the desire to make future tasks easier is appropriate for the current situation. Sometimes, perfectionism serves as an acceptable heuristic for finding the best path to an optimal solution. One adage that I saw on a whiteboard at a previous company is “do things right the first time.” I shall commit myself to doing just that.

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