Words of wisdom

Sometimes, you just stumble on the right quote at the right time. There’s a few blogs I follow somewhat regularly. On Friday, Gail Vaz-Oxlade had a post on perfectionism. And in that post, there was two sentences that jumped out at me.

“The world does not reward perfectionists. It rewards people who get things done.”

I think this is really really true, and something that grad students can easily forget. We’re use to always doing well, which usually means trying to produce work close to perfect. And, I’m finding that this attitude can be a bit of a road block.

I wrote a comment on her site, that I’ll share here, in response to those two lines:

Ooh, I’m totally adding these lines to my list of quotes to go to when I’m having a hard day. “The world does not reward perfectionists. It rewards people who get things done.”

It really hits home for me as a grad student. Lately I feel like I’ve been floundering – my project stalled and I was having trouble coming up with a “perfect” new one. Which in turn made it really hard to get anything done as I was just getting more and more stressed out. Even though I finally got a scholarship I’d been trying for for years, it was not as exciting because I have been/am so stressed out about how things have been going.

I just got back recently from a conference/vacation and have come back inspired. And I’ve been working away on prototyping out an idea so now I can *actually* judge whether it will work or not, instead of just guessing. But I keep coming up with small tasks in the project where I just don’t want to/or can’t figure out the “right” way to do them. But for now, I think the thing to remember, is getting *something* done and working is much better than being concerned that I did it the *best* way.

I have a small collection of about 3-4 quotes that I like to keep around as they remind me to change my view point. That sometimes, you need to back away from your current thoughts and think about the task in a new way.

For me, I like to do things “right.” Which is a bit of a funny concept in computer science when there are many ways to do a single task. And depending on the context, some may be more “right” than others, but rarely are any completely not right.

But I find this can be hang up. What if the method I choose isn’t the best one. Or the right one? And how am I suppose to even know what one is the right or best one? It’s not always so clear. And right now, I’m working on a prototype of a system, which really means that how fast it is, how optimal, doesn’t matter. What matters, is what I can get working. And how well what I can get working actually works. None of the results I’m looking for have anything to do with computational speed or memory saved, and so there’s no point spending extra time and energy worrying about either of those.

Thankfully, reading that on Friday, gave me a bit of the kick I needed to just find a solution to my current problem and get back to work. It’s not like I can’t change my solution in the future, should I find a better one, or my current one no longer meets my needs.


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