The Graduating Warrior: Done Is Better Than Perfect

Kevin Veloso - 4C Software
Posted on: March 27, 2013

Welcome to the last article in “The Graduating Warrior” series. Graduating students are quickly wrapping up their final term! Fourth year design symposium has finished up for many students, and for others, they have their final report due at the end of the term. GradBall happened this past weekend, and graduating students are collecting their last set of photos to put in the yearbook! What’s left is handing in their last assignments, their last projects and reports, exams, and that’s it! Boom! Done!

Graduating students have less than two weeks left until classes officially end. What’s left for me to say in this last article? There’s a quote that has been stuck in my head for some time, and although I don’t completely agree with the quote, I agree with it enough to discuss it here. “Done Is Better Than Perfect.” Don’t take this quote the wrong way: you should still strive for the highest quality of work you can. Especially as graduating students that will enter the work force and work towards becoming a licensed engineer, it’s of utmost importance that the work being produced is acceptable and safe. Still, the work needs to be finished, and this quote may be useless when “done” means “perfect”.

So, how’s the quote relevant? Again, fourth years have two weeks of class, then exams, then convocation. They can probably use this advice while wrapping up assignments. “Done Is Better Than Perfect”, and as long as it passes, they’ll still get that degree in June. If an excuse for half-assery is needed, that quote would be it.

Some graduating students may be in the mindset that the last two weeks may be their final days to do their last things. Symposium might have been the last thing that students as a class did as a social-academic function. GradBall might have been the last thing they did together as graduating students before convocation. As the undergraduate career wraps up for fourth years, it isn’t uncommon to see them look back at the things they have done for the past five to seven years. Decisions made from the recent past may pop up, like choosing what to wear to GradBall or what courses to take in 4B. Thoughts from a time more distant like first or second year may also pop up, like making that first step into an Engineering event where they’ve met their fellow peers, attending the class party where they first met people who are now in their design project group, or even visiting an information session hosted by a company that they did a co-op for the following term. How is this all related to that quote? Having made those choices (some of which may have been more impulsive than thoughtful) got them out of dwelling on whether or not the choice is right. Better being “done” by actually taking those steps, than “perfect” where they’re dwelling on whether the things they could do is a good use of their time. The latter mindset is especially useful for decision making, but not so much for taking action.

With reminiscence comes possible thoughts of regrets. (For those with no regrets, congratulations!) Thoughts that start with “what if” may come and hit. What if they took a different set of TEs this term, possibly easier ones that didn’t take up so much of their time? What if they had different co-ops, or have taken the opportunity to travel during co-op? For those who still feel the nuisance of regrets, there’s a little something called the Regret Fallacy. In short, it’s realizing that making an alternate decision means rejecting all the decisions between now and that point in time. In relation to “Done Is Better Than Perfect”, the acceptance of the collective actions from first year until now is all part of being “done”, as opposed to to the “perfection” that is the conceptional ideal undergraduate experience (i.e. living in the world of “what ifs”). Would you have decided to attend another university instead of Waterloo if it meant not having this undergrad experience? Probably not. Then again, if you already know about the butterfly effect and chaos theory, having no “what ifs” pretty much follows from that.

There may be some “what ifs” that plague the fourth year now, “what ifs” that can still be acted upon. This can be as small as recalculating measurements for their final report to account for other factors (resulting in staying up for another two hours), to unresolved personal issues with other people, sometimes referred to in their heads as “that girl”, or “that guy”.

Sometimes these things bite your butt in the future, and the preoccupation on making the perfect decision stopped you from actually acting on it. (Or not, as we’ve seen from looking at the Regret Fallacy.) If “Done Is Better Than Perfect”, and if you’re a fourth year that has the time and energy, finish up anything unresolved you’ve started during your time at university. Maybe you got acquainted with your class just this term because of all the fourth year events and you’re hesitant to keep in touch because you’re not sure about the best way to do so. Better to do anything than nothing at all, in this case. Maybe you’ve held a grudge this entire time to the questions guy who has improved over the years as to when to ask their questions. Let the grudge go, or at least make amends. I’m not going to list all of your university life problems.

Looking back at what I’ve written above, there are things that I could clarify and change. Having taken a creative writing course at Waterloo (two, actually), it always seems as though there’s something I can improve on in my writing. Whenever I see someone pick up an issue of The Iron Warrior, I’m reminded that people might actually read what I have written. However, I don’t think this article would be published if I didn’t hand it in on time. “Done Is Better Than Perfect”, and as long as the quality of this writing isn’t responsible for any lives (read: “disclaimer”) I don’t mind leaving what I’ve written as is.

Congratulations, class of 2013. You’ve made it!