There is a stereotype that I have heard joked about by every watchmaker I have met and been trained by: every single one of us has crippling obsessive compulsive disorder, and we will settle for no less than absolute perfection in our work. In this blog post, this unhealthily obsessive nature will be referred to as perfectionism. One may ask, “as a watchmaker, isn’t the desire for perfection a good thing”? to which I would answer, “yes, it is helpful for someone who is building and repairing high-quality or luxury watches, but it is a detrimental flaw to every other aspect of that person’s life”.
I have spent countless hours of my life in a state of frustration while building and repairing timepieces. To fully clean and reassemble a watch movement only to test its accuracy and find that it has retained the beat error you had originally disassembled the movement to fix, or to find a half-millimeter wide speck of dust under the crystal after assembling the watch – these are both painful experiences. You are forced to start from the beginning and re-execute the service perfectly. However, it is fortunate that I have suffered through those experiences enough times to develop the ability to perform those services right on the first attempt, in a time-efficient manner.
This is the nature of watchmaking – there are specific strategies and procedures to follow, and if you follow them properly, you will consistently reach the same conclusion in your work. Unfortunately, every other facet of life is absolutely not mechanical in nature. When you fail a test in school or miss an assignment, you do not get the opportunity to immediately restart from the top and attempt to re-execute in a perfect manner. When you underestimate the needs of your new business, you do not get to restart and re-execute your refined plan – you are forced to work with the resources you have available, however abundant or scarce they may be. There is no such thing as “perfect” in any other aspect of life – this is a concept unique to watchmaking, and even then, I have limitations to my tools and my ability.
There is no “perfect” way to learn. You will learn through countless failures, and you will not have the opportunity to restart – you are only able to move forward from the foundation of lessons and experience you have built from yourself. The only options you have are to obsess about your failures, which is inherently self-destructive, or you may choose to learn from your failures and move forward in your pursuit of entrepreneurial self-actualization.