At its most simplified, you overcome perfectionism like this:
Make something up.
Get the word out about it.
Accept dollars for the thing you’ve made up.
(Of course that doesn’t always work, because have you seen the photo to the left and WOW do I suck at being posed sometimes. But you keep going.)
This is an episode of That’s What She Said, my weekly podcast! Listen in below, or read along for the transcript(ish).
This thing you’re sharing may or may not require: a website, an e-mail list, a social media presence, and/or a change of job.
It will most definitely involve: risk, leaving your comfort zone, asking for help, and failing. Lots.
We hide behind plans and structures, strategies and investors, sure things and experts, but there’s no real way to know how a thing you’ve made up will do until you introduce it to the world.
So go on, make the thing.
And then introduce it to the world.
“I’ve had many many many products, the vast majority of the things I’ve written, or created, the organizations I built fail, but the reason I’ve managed a modicum of success is because I just keep shipping.” — Seth Godin
We’re tempted to hide, to give up, or to go back to the old way of doing something once we’ve perceived something as a failure, but Seth tells us to just keep shipping.
That idea you’ve got? Ship it.
That thing you’re sitting on? Ship it.
The movement you want to start? Ship it.
Ship 10 things, and 2 will succeed.
That’s better than shipping 1 thing and having it fail, right? It feels too big, too important, or too grand. It’s not ready, it needs more of this and less of that.
IT WILL NEVER FEEL READY. SHIP IT.
What are you perfecting, tweaking, or planning?
What’s been an idea lurking in your brain for the past few weeks, months, years, or decades?
What is it you want to do but you feel like you just freaking CAN’T because you’re too scared, because you don’t know enough, or because someone else has a slightly similar version and you’re afraid you’ll end up copying him or her, even though you know that’s a lame excuse and really, yours is completely different?
What do you need to set a deadline for, NOW?
I dare you to set it.
And then JUST FUCKING SHIP IT.
When we give one idea, concept, or blueprint too much attention, it can suck away our momentum, tank our mojo, and keep us from shipping.
Your brain will tell you that shipping and shipping and shipping does your clients a disservice. It will say that you should tweak and twerk, that your clients deserve only perfection, that they couldn’t possibly embrace the state of your creation as it is right now.
Only what if it launches and it’s missed the mark? Three months of work into it, that’s devastating.
Three years, or three decades into it? You’ll never recover.
That’s the part where you let your people have at it — whatever it is — and then you tweak.
You listen. You add features or streamline the whole venture. You let the dead bits fall to the wayside. You add life to the parts your peeps embrace. You let your clients inform your work, and your work inform your clients, in a glorious cycle that goes up and up and up and up into something way better than you could ever have created without their input.
When you’re holding tight to perfectionism, you’re not holding tight to your clients.
They deserve to see your work, not to be teased with it until it’s been beaten and battered to within an inch of its life.
When you’re striving for perfection, you can erode the fundamental spirit of a thing.
You lose an edge here, a corner there. You keep chipping away, and suddenly the life is gone.
Sometimes the spirit is in the flaws. Sometimes the charm is in letting us see your humanity. Sometimes the most sacred bits are the parts your detractors might call mistakes. Sometimes the best parts of a program are found in the outtakes.
The world makes a big fuss about perfection, but the act of iterating is infinitely more sexy. When you find yourself in the ‘make it perfect, make it perfect, make it perfect’ loop…ask yourself whether what you’re making hums with life.
Ask a friend who loves you where it sings and where it falls flat. Ask if the whole thing reflects who you are and where you are in the world, or if you’ve accidentally picked up someone’s else’s voice. (Or worse, someone else’s aspirations.) Ask them if it feels like you.
Does it feel like kids covered in mud, or dogs digging in the sand, or those moments when you first picked up the instruments of your profession and thought ‘This is what I want to do with my life…’? If it does, no further polishing is required.
Let us see the work. Let your slightly-wibbly bits sing out to ours and make new off-key-but-lovely music together.
We’d rather have a spirited something than a lifeless lump of perfection.
What have you been sitting on, waiting for, or polishing for way too long?
Where are you dragging your feet?
What can you get to market in the next 6 weeks?
No, really…if you give it your all, what can you get to market in the next 6 weeks? The next 8 weeks?
Pablo Picasso painted his masterpiece, Guernica, in under a month. New York Times bestselling author Jane Green writes her novels in six months. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in less than thirty days. My favorite poems always fall out in twenty minutes or less.
Don’t discount something just because you haven’t wallowed in it for a decade or more.
P.S. If you need help to overcome perfectionism and bring your work to the world, I’ve got three pay-what-you-can books to help! Go Your Own Way: free yourself from business as usual is ideal if you’ve got no idea where to begin with owning a business.
Introverts at Work will help you explore selling and marketing techniques that make the most of your Quiet-with-a-capital-Q nature.
Calling to the Deep: business as a spiritual practice will help you figure out why your money issues affect your business, and your marital issues affect your bookings, and your own personal failings somehow seem to be far more pronounced the minute you opened your doors. That’s normal. Let’s talk about it.