This isn’t what we’re used to hearing. We’re used to hearing the siren song of Optimal all around us. In health, fitness, beauty, efficiency, productivity, safety. Optimal makes for such a seductive myth because if things are perfect, then we’ll have nothing to fear. In the business world, if we launch the perfect product, then of course we’ll be successful. That’s how perfect works.

But perfect doesn’t exist. It never has, and it never will.

Optimal is overrated because the pursuit of perfection is a trap. It keeps us in the planning phase for far too long. We delay and tinker, seeking more information or more authority. The planning phase is a safe place, full of excitement and possibility. It’s safe because it’s almost impossible to fail while planning something. To borrow an idea from James Clear, there is usually a large amount of motion, but very little action.

But motion is never enough. For things to get done, we need action.

That’s why I prefer to Optimize. Optimize my process, my business partners, myself. Choosing to optimize not only allows me to start, it demands it. Choosing action over motion allows me to start receiving feedback, good or bad. And that feedback, if it’s constructive, is what gives me the chance to grow, to improve.

Optimal is overrated. Perfection is a myth. Optimizing our world is the only way to get things done.

A perfect example is choosing a new carrier or technology partner. These types of decisions can come with a high cost, whether it be time, money, or status. And when the cost is high, it can be daunting to leave the safety of the planning phase.

“Let’s look at one more demo.”

“Crunch the numbers one more time.”

“We should poll more people.”

“Let’s wait and see what the next quarter/season/sale brings, then we can decide.”

These delay tactics happen because we’re afraid there will be a penalty for choosing wrong. And worse, that other people will see our mistake. But what we often fail to consider is the cost of doing nothing. Failure is scary, true, but failure at least comes with feedback. It’s almost impossible to learn something if you never try anything.

When I’m in the middle of an RFP, I don’t worry about picking the Optimal partner. Instead, I work on Optimizing the problem itself. I drill down deep, asking myself why … why … why, sometimes until the word loses all meaning. If I can be as clear as possible on the why, I can see the problem for what it is. At that point, choosing the best partner or solution is easy.

The keys to choosing Optimize over Optimal:

    1. Start
    2. Collect Feedback.
    3. Be Open and Honest About That Feedback.
    4. Change as Needed.

Optimizing isn’t complicated. But step one is usually scary, and the next steps are often difficult. On the other hand, Optimal is safe, but in the end, accomplishes nothing.

The choice is yours.