Is there a good quote or idiom for this sentiment?
March 10, 2013 6:47 PM   Subscribe

It doesn't have to 100% match the sentiment, but I'd love if it has the same general lesson (and is more concise than the following): "An idea that you keep in your head, incessantly perfecting, is worth nothing. Whereas the person who is willing to actually act on an idea, even if it's imperfect, has accomplished something. So instead of getting hung up on perfection, just DO something and learn from it for the next time." I'm kind of looking for what, say, Diablo Cody would say to her hipster haters who have never finished a screenplay. Or what you'd tell your friend who wants to be a writer but has been tinkering with their novel for the last 200 years. Oh, and I know about "perfect is the enemy of the good."
posted by Anonymousness to Writing & Language (52 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Well, as I always say:
"There's the plan, and then there's what happens"
posted by sexyrobot at 6:50 PM on March 10, 2013

An old military adage: "A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow."
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:53 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

The world is run by C students.
That's all well and good in theory, but how does it work in practice.
Put up or shut up.
Shit or get off the pot.
posted by phunniemee at 6:54 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In a sense "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" applies.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:55 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt, from a speech commonly referred to as "The Man in the Arena"
posted by vytae at 6:56 PM on March 10, 2013 [25 favorites]

Seconding Man in the Arena! And here's a nifty comic to go along with the text.
posted by bigasthesky at 7:00 PM on March 10, 2013

Grossly simplified, but that's not always a terrible thing. "Just do it".
posted by uncaken at 7:04 PM on March 10, 2013

The Best is the Enemy of the Good (le mieux est l'ennemi du bien) --Voltaire
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:11 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Related sentiment: "Everyone has a plan until they've been hit." -Joe Louis
posted by bdk3clash at 7:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

A variation on Voltaire: The perfect is the enemy of done.
posted by pickypicky at 7:18 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Overworked often means unreleased. Unreleased means unprofitable. Unprofitable? Well, that means unsuccessfull." - a former boss of mine
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:22 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

"You can plan actions, but you can't plan outcomes."
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:26 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." - George Bernard Shaw
posted by capricorn at 7:28 PM on March 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: "Don't get addicted to brain crack."
posted by MsMolly at 7:38 PM on March 10, 2013

Best answer: Potential is not something you're supposed to have all your life.
posted by subtle-t at 7:41 PM on March 10, 2013 [19 favorites]

Several of these are near misses. Another near-miss is the contrast of two managerial styles:

"Ready. Fire. Aim."
"Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim."

I like the Voltaire quote, though this is the first I have heard it attributed to him. It's the closest to the mark, I think.
posted by yclipse at 7:50 PM on March 10, 2013

I tend to point at Twilight in these situations. Maybe you can write a better book than Stephenie Meyer, but she actually finished writing hers.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:53 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not exactly the same, but it reminds me of this Aristotle quote (Nicomachean Ethics):

And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:55 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's easier to critique than to create.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:02 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank page." - Nora Roberts
posted by Jeanne at 8:16 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."

- General George S. Patton, Jr.
posted by Kakkerlak at 8:25 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

What Jayne said to Mal in Serenity:

"Well, what you plan and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar."
posted by 1367 at 8:31 PM on March 10, 2013

Best answer: The Cult of Done Manifesto.
posted by mogget at 8:34 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's not enough to be a genius. You have to be a genius at something.
posted by bac at 8:34 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Can't never could."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:37 PM on March 10, 2013

"Make it hap'n cap'n."

(from The Office, apparently)
posted by artdesk at 8:45 PM on March 10, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
posted by selfmedicating at 8:51 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Paraphrased from an old prof of mine: "There's good, and there's done, and the first doesn't matter without the second."
posted by eponym at 8:52 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.

- James Russel Lowell.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 9:02 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. -Wayne Gretzky" -Michael Scott
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:08 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Thats a good idea, maybe we'll do it that way next time!" is the motto of my field team. They get a stupid amount of stuff done each season and occasionally we even remember our ideas the following year but we do not obsess over it.
posted by fshgrl at 9:24 PM on March 10, 2013

I'm fond of "You can't place if you don't race." Dunno where I heard it though.

When it comes to understanding the different compromises necessary in execution, I continue to learn a lot from Richard Gabriel's Worse is better.
posted by wobh at 10:04 PM on March 10, 2013

Best answer: “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.”
― Chuck Close
posted by milk white peacock at 10:59 PM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Probably the quintessential short bit on this is Tom Peters's advice to "Fail. Forward. Fast." If you're not failing, you're not learning, so go ahead and get that learning out of the way and move on to the next thing. One phrase attached to this is "It is far better to have sloppy success than to have perfect procrastination. "

Paul Graham (of Yahoo, and now Y Combinator) has written on this more than once, e.g. Ideas for Startups:

I think people believe that coming up with ideas for startups is very hard-- that it must be very hard-- and so they don't try do to it.... They think creating a startup is just a matter of implementing some fabulous initial idea. And since a successful startup is worth millions of dollars, a good idea is therefore a million dollar idea.... Actually, startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here's an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there's no market for startup ideas suggests there's no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless.

There's also a common formulation that may have originated with someone like Graham or Peters:

Which would you rather invest in?

An A-team with a B idea: Top tier management team, past experience in the industry, past startup experience, well rounded group of people trying to take an idea with okay potential to fruition...


A B-team with an A idea: College graduates with no experience, only a few positions filled (say developer & marketing but lacking all other as an example), but with passion, enthusiasm and a great idea.

What I`ve heard and what I would definitely lean towards myself is the A-team with a B idea. Less of a gamble having a team with experience both in industry and in startups. I`d rather take the lesser potential revenues and give it more of a shot of success. An A-idea with a risky team, while it could definitely still outshine the B-idea, could also become a failure.

posted by dhartung at 11:21 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Real artists ship.
posted by atrazine at 1:26 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

"done is better than good" or "done is better than perfect". i've heard it both ways but have no idea who the quote is from. it is my perfectionist mantra. :)
posted by wildflower at 1:51 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I truly love the Voltaire quote, and think of it fairly frequently when confronting that "must be perfect" mindset.
posted by mosk at 1:53 AM on March 11, 2013

Don't get it right, get it written.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:16 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned "analysis paralysis."
posted by jon1270 at 3:51 AM on March 11, 2013

Happiness is a kind of action.
- either Aristotle himself or my old professor's summary of the Nichomachean Ethics, I forget which
posted by colfax at 4:00 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking." - William B Sprague.

Here's 99 more.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:57 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Man who says it cannot be done should get out of way of man doing it" (Confucious attrib.)
posted by acm at 6:44 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." -Henry Ford
posted by KevCed at 8:54 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices. - Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
posted by sianifach at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2013

Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. - Anonymous
posted by magstheaxe at 11:01 AM on March 11, 2013

Oh, and here's my absolute favourite, which I googled for earlier but have now found in one of my notebooks:
"This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

William Hutchinson Murray, Mountaineer.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:11 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

"All glory comes from daring to begin"

Eugene F. Ware
posted by macinchik at 12:21 PM on March 11, 2013

Best answer: Okay, two more and I'm done, because I'm using this thread to avoid a drafting session right now.
"The best advice I could possibly give you, and forgive me if this seems glib, is to work. Work. Work. Work. Every day. At the same time every day. For as long as you can take it every day, work, work, work. Understand? Talent is for shit. I’ve taught school for nearly thirty years and never met a student who did not have some talent. It is as common as house dust or kudzu vine in Alabama and is just about as valuable. Nothing is as valuable as the habit of work, and work has to become a habit.”

Like that? Here's another, which I got from the fantastic podcast Scriptnotes:
“Perfectionism isn’t really perfectionism. You are not perfecting anything. Perfectionism is protectionism. You are protecting yourself, or you are attempting to protect yourself from any sling shot or arrow. Tough. They are coming anyway. They are coming in an unfair way. It’s not fair. Somebody may read it and hate it even though it’s great.

Or, what may happen is they might read it and say, “Great. This is a pretty typical first draft. Liked part of it, didn’t like part of it. There’s some big problems.” Meanwhile you have been in the shower practicing your Oscar speech. That’s okay. But just understand that you are not actually perfecting things when you fall into the trap of “perfectionism.”"

Craig Mazin, Screenwriter
posted by Happy Dave at 12:44 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Shipping is a feature. A really important feature. Your product must have it."

- Joel Spolsky (Stack Overflow)
posted by rahulrg at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2013

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