When The Competition Is Perfection

Former football coach overheard on ESPN: “You don’t coach against the competition, you coach against perfection.”

Think about it.

How many times have you sweated out a proposal or a pitch? Not because you didn’t know what to do, but because you were trying to outthink your competitor.

Who is on their team? What’s their relationship to the client? What process will they recommend? How will they price the deal?

In your zeal to win the work, you focus on your competition. You may obsess about your pitch, seizing on spots where you feel vulnerable. You may even downplay your strengths as you seek to counter the opposition.

But what if the competition—the real competition—is perfection?

Not perfection as in my stuff is never good enough to release. Perfection as in how can I come as close to my ideal as possible?

The pole vaulter’s mantra is about perfecting his form so he can vault higher each time. The designer has an inner vision that she wants to bring to life, finding the perfect balance of form, function and price. The writer searches for the perfect metaphor to make a point that will move hearts and change minds.

Reaching for perfection—even while we know it’s unattainable—is what makes for greatness.

You get to decide where to set the bar. Will it be back in the pack or up in the stars?


  • I like perfect; I prefer to focus on why I make (more) sense from the positive side. The funny (or perhaps disconcerting ) side to this revolves around how much “okay” or “just enough” gained acceptance in my world. Sometimes the “famed” “one-pager” gets confused with communicating succinctly. One can meet deadlines and still offer a perfect product. If not there yet, practice a bit more. In the music and performing worlds they say you need 10,000 or more hours to “perfect” your product. Each time you produce, you should improve on your product. Perfection as an aim.

  • I think it was the imortal Zig Ziglar who said “shoot for the stars”. You might not make it; but you will be a heck of a lot closer than your competition.” Be the best you can be; and always strive to improve.

  • Corey and Ed, I’m so glad you “get” perfect as a goal vs a trap! Love “shoot for the stars” and the 10,000 hours +…

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