Home » When Perfection Goes Too Far: COTD

When Perfection Goes Too Far: COTD

Cotd 98p
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Some of you out there may be perfectionists. It’s ok, I am, too. I am the kind of person who will see something only slightly wrong with my car and let it bother me until I try to do something about it. The problem is, I’m not always successful in fixing small problems, and often, I just make things worse.

A few years ago, I owned a 2002 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. It was a fine motorcycle. I enjoyed the noise it made and I wasn’t even bothered by how slow it was. What did bother me was the dent on top of the tank. It was a minor dent and one that was so gentle that the paint was still there. You can’t even see the dent in pictures! Yet, I was bothered by the fact that the Sporty was oh, maybe 98 percent perfect. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to fix dents, I was going to fix it.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

So, I bought a cheap, but highly-rated hot glue-based dent removal kit from Amazon. It didn’t work. In fact, it ripped a bunch of paint off of the dent, making the whole thing so much worse. I then tried to repaint that part of the tank, and my job was shoddy enough that it might have looked worse than if I left the bald spot behind. When all was said and done, I concluded that I should have just done nothing. Instead, I made the bike worse.

20200608 202217
Mercedes Streeter

This is a long way of agreeing with today’s COTD winner, A.Barth, for this sage advice from today’s Cold Start:

That’s the other lesson: if it’s 98 percent good enough, it usually isn’t worth risking everything to make it two percent better.

Exactly: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

It’s a frustrating phenomenon. A problem arises, and someone proposes a solution, and then naysayers immediately complain that the proposed idea doesn’t solve 100% of the problem.

Oh no, the idea addresses only 80% – or even 40% – of the problem? Clearly it’s better to do nothing at all and retain 100% of the problem instead of doing the proposed thing and reducing the problem to 20% or 60%, he said sarcastically. ????

Admittedly, the perfectionism seeps into work, too. Sometimes I end up writing 5,000-plus word Holy Grail entries, just to realize that maybe I don’t need to devote so many paragraphs to talking about the story of Rudolf Diesel. Maybe one day I’ll release a Snyder Cut Streeter Cut of my writing.

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For a second COTD winner today, we have a silly and short Star Trek joke thread from Lewin’s post about Patrick Stewart’s terrible motorcycle racing movie, starting with Canopysaurus:

This film is not at all engaging.

SNL-LOL Jr

Sir Patrick would rather you not dig up his yesteryear’s enterprise(s.)

Have a great evening, everyone!

Top graphic image credits: NASA, Paramount

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Rina Herring
Rina Herring
3 months ago

Your writing is big reason I’m a supporter, so I’d love to see more of it

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
3 months ago

Before you write about Diesel, you will have to borrow Diesel ; Der Mensch – Das Werk – Das Schicksal from me. 520 pages, in German. Enjoy.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Or this in English at 384 pages. Was it the Germans? Rockefeller (the original diesel fuel was coal dust)?
Was his death faked by the British and he relocated to Canada?

What a crazy story.

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Mysterious-Case-of-Rudolf-Diesel/Douglas-Brunt/9781982169909

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I should probably read it myself, too… It seems an intriguing tale.

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago

Ha! I recently twice let “perfect” be the enemy of “good enough” and it has cost me 4 figures.

Both pertained to the project of…adding fog lights to a 2012 Prius v that didn’t have them from the factory. (What can I say except I like their look?)

I desperately wanted them to work and look as close to OEM as possible, so rather than a dashboard cutout toggle switch, I wanted to replace the turn signal stalk with an OEM one with the extra fog light switch, since the “combination meter” already had the indicator for the fog lights.

I was able to remove the steering wheel and swap that in without issue, and the indicator and toggle worked. But living in an apartment complex, I ended up going to a specialty shop to actually get the housings and the rest of the wiring installed. So they worked!

…but then I made an expensive mistake, and didn’t learn and also made a separate even more expensive mistake.

The former mistake was fixing the issue of the housings fogging up inside, which they shouldn’t do (rather than just live with it). I started by replacing the aftermarket housings with Toyota OEM housings. (A pain in the ass because I had to order them online, because local dealerships wouldn’t work with me since my VIN didn’t originally have them.) Then I had to send one back later because it developed the moisture inside, too. (It wasn’t the bulbs having a loose seal, because I had my mechanic switch the bulbs to test. The moisture only recurred in one housing.) Of course, only the part itself got refunded.

The latter mistake was worse. The new turn signal stalk didn’t match the windshield wiper switch–it had a “O” symbol for “Off” rather than the word, but the wiper stalk had all words (OFF, INT, etc.). So I wanted a matching symbols-only wiper stalk. That was $50 for the part on eBay.
…except this time I forgot to unplug two little connectors when removing the steering wheel, and broke the “clock spring”. Was a fascinating piece to look at and learn about! Would’ve been more fun to learn about if it didn’t cost me ~$675 for the part, plus labor and such bringing it up to around $950, all because I wanted a piece to aesthetically match. Never thought about the mechanisms a steering wheel needs to allow for buttons to work, needing ribbon cables that allow the wheel to spin thousands of times without twisting copper wires in a way that could damage them. That, plus things like the “steering wheel position sensor” that disabled my traction control once it no longer had a connection.

(You get 10 internet points for reading this whole comment, friend.)

Tbird
Tbird
3 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Sigh — currently living without self cancelling turn signals on my 2005 Acura MDX. The self cancelling cam is worn out (170,000). Found one off a junked Odyssey on e-bay. Pulled airbag, wheel, stalks, etc to install. Found out it did not have the proper contacts for the ESC traction control system and the computer has an absolute fit. Apparently steering wheel angle is a key input and without it the car goes into a sort of limp mode. Had to do it all again just to install the worn out parts. Much as I drive it I can use a finger to flick the signals on AND off. Everything – even the built in DVD – else works flawlessly on this vehicle.

Lokki
Lokki
3 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Can I have three points?

I only read half of it and skipped to the last sentence – I figured that was good enough.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

Thank you, Mercedes!

I feel you on the tank repair. I bought a small bike 7-8 years ago and it had a shallow dent (about 1.25″ in diameter) on one side of the fuel tank. After knocking the paint off around the area, I filled the dent, primed, painted, etc. and it was looking pretty good for something done by a rank amateur bodyworker.

Then, as I was navigating around the shop, I bumped into the work table and watched the newly-completed tank fall and bounce on the concrete floor. The larger of the two new dents was on a tricky line and I wasn’t able to get it 100% right. It was a decent 10-foot repair job; I knew the issue was still there but decided it was good enough as it stood.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
3 months ago

Agreed that most times “that’s good enough” really is just fine. Exceptions do exist. Like heart surgery.

Tbird
Tbird
3 months ago

I’m a firm believer in the teachings of the great Greek philosopher Mediocrates “Eh, it’s good enough.” for many things.

Last edited 3 months ago by Tbird
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago
Reply to  Tbird

I’m a firm follower of the (Greek? Roman? Imaginary?) great thinker Testiclees.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
3 months ago

I learned this lesson early in my car hoarding life! The first car I really got into was the Fiat 124 Spider, and I quickly learned that they could be turned into incredibly fun and surprisingly quick little cars for very little money. They were also very reliable as long as you accepted that they could never be dialed in quite perfectly and small things always be wrong.

But if you tried for perfection, not only would you fail to achieve it, but other items would inevitably break in the tuning process. I now maintain a philosophy of never disturbing a good running car in pursuit of minor gains.

Rafael
Rafael
3 months ago

I usually go from the tape-it-together fix to the rebuild-from-the-ground solution. I strongly believe in containing the problem before advancing further, if circumstances allow.

Many times in my life I was pestered by the perfectionists that couldn’t conceive “settling” for less than 100% solution. I tried to explain that I’m not settling, I’m iterating towards it, to no avail…

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

“Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.”

(Paraphrasing of course, because I thought that sentiment could be worded more straightforwardly)

Sage advice as usual A.Barth.

A few years ago I needed a creative outlet to replace woodworking due to a move and downsizing of available shop space.
No more table saw. The planer had to go, along with many wood working tools I had collected throughout the years.

Given my brain’s need for creativity in a similar vein I latched on to leatherwork.
A somewhat similar process in a more limited space.

I had to fail at my new endeavor a hundred times before I succeeded at making the perfect wallet… for me.

Learning a new skill and the word “perfection” are mortal enemies to some creatives.

You gotta fail. Then try again. Fail again.

Try again!

I love my leatherwork bench! One in every ten things I make gets torn down and it’s components recycled into the next bizarre idea.

How would one ever start a new creative endeavor if perfection is the goal?

You’ve gotta let failure slap you across the face a few times first.
For a better artistic perspective.

As an obsessive perfectionist, it’s a difficult skill to learn.
(Failure)
But oh so handy to understand.

If perfection is your goal, might as well
give up now.
That’s never gonna happen.

Meanwhile, you might as well try. Without the burden of self doubt.
Go on! Do that thing!

Tbird
Tbird
3 months ago

My wife does this, gets upset she can’t duplicate some DIY craft idea she saw on the first try. I tell her that they don’t show you the first 9 they messed up on, only the 10th perfect example. Learning is iterative – practice, practice, practice. Build skill and knowledge over time.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
3 months ago

“If perfection is your goal, might as well
give up now.
That’s never gonna happen.”
Untrue. I just read n article about a Caddy hot rod that looked perfect. I cost him $2.3 million to make a $300k car, but it was peeeerrrfect!

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