Nobody’s perfect, as the saying goes. And while that is perfectly true (Ha! See what I did there?), and meant to make us feel better for being flawed or making mistakes, in retrospect it also implies that we hold perfection up as an ideal..as the ultimate achievement. When it comes to our body image and the way we look we now KNOW how damaging striving for perfection can be. For centuries people have tried everything and anything to achieve what is regarded as the perfect body shape. The cruel irony being that every decade or so what society (or probably more accurately marketers) regard as the ideal body shape changes. So perfection is at best short lived. We don’t often talk about the effect of striving for ‘perfection’ in entrepreneurship tho.
I struggle massively with perfectionism. I’m sure at some point I would have held my perfectionism up as a positive quality, but over the years I have come to realise how much damage it has done. Or probably more accurately, how incredibly limiting it has been. I think it’s one of the reason that I find concepts like Kintsugi and wabi-sabi so fascinating, because they represent such a joy in the imperfect, and that is very contrary to the way I often find myself thinking.
As I have mentioned, one of the main reasons that striving for perfection in any area of our life can be so damaging is because ‘perfection’ is a constantly changing ideal. Fashion changes, fads come and go, and so do businesses and lifestyles. The ultimate example of the perfect husband is not what it was ten years ago. Nor is the idea of the perfect home, the perfect car or the perfect relationship. Trying to live up to something that we see in the media or in advertising or even that our peers are aiming for negates our own critical thought and individuality. Just as I strongly believe that each one of us needs to decide for ourselves what we value in our lives and what WE consider success, we need to constantly check that the perfect ideal we are striving for is not, in fact, just an illusion…or worse, a manufactured ideal designed to sell us stuff.
We all need goals and we all need something to aspire too. No question there. But I really believe that striving for perfection satisfies neither of those. But it does serve a purpose. I think in my personal experience, ‘perfection’ is neat, clean and something I can clearly see as an end point. It’s tidy. And that means it makes us feel in control.
Evolution, experimentation and change are all messy. Messy AF. But to my mind they are without doubt FAR more important to strive for than perfection. My inimitable friend Jason Zook was the person that reminded me recently that entrepreneurship (and business today!) really is best considered a series of experiments. You cannot wait until you have the perfect plan and execute that, and confidently wait while it all just falls into place and everything works perfectly. You have to experiment, try things, change things, throw out the things that don’t work and try more new things….and KEEP doing that. And the same goes for life I think. If we want to keep growing as people we can never sit back and feel like we have it all figured out. (Altho I don’t believe anyone has it all figured out anyway…some people are just better at making it look like they have!)
Experiments are hard to control, and unpredictable, and sometimes they blow up in your face. And that my friends is a terrifying thought when you are putting yourself out into the wide world. It makes you vulnerable and it means you have to accept that failure is part and parcel of getting to any successful outcome. It’s such a perfect metaphor tho - because you CAN prepare, take precautions and have a plan for the experimental process. But you cannot guarantee the outcome you want until you’ve tried it. I for one think that’s scary. SO scary that I hid behind perfectionism for many years, and used it as an excuse to just not move forward. My business, my creativity, my life basically just sat in a holding pattern doing ‘OK’ for years. But when I did start to take chances, things moved forward. There are always glitches and bumps in the road, but at least I’m moving forward.
4 things to remember
Over the years I have found many quotes and nuggets o’ wisdom that have helped me get through perfectionism and move forward, and I wanted to share three things that I found really helped me, in the hope that it may help you move forward.
Take a page out of the science book (Oh my god my puns are on point today!)
Conducting any scientific experiment begins with research, a desired outcome, a plan, preparation and precautions. Approach your business experience the same way. Decide what the objective is, figure out what you need to make it happen, make sure you have taken precautions where you can, and then begin. But DON’T allow preparation to become another way of avoiding action. Put the googles on and light that sucker up. If it goes boom…clean up and try a different way.
Remember, it’s likely nobody cares
Wow - that sucks to hear right? It’s everyone’s worst nightmare - that you put yourself out into the world and nobody cares what you’re doing. But guess what, particularly when you’re in the early days of your business, if you’re gonna think that, then reframe it: Nobody cares… if this experiment doesn’t work. So…why not just go for it? If it fails…NOBODY CARES. No one will judge you or laugh at you because (apart from a few arseholes) they are all too busy with their own experiments. Nobody cares? WHOO HOO! Then you have free rein to try what you will.
There is no going back
I do love a good inspirational quote (I mean, who doesn’t right? :P ) and there are two that are very relevant here. The first is an old Chinese proverb that roughly translates as “Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” I love this quote because it remind me that I don’t need to rush, and that even just doing SOMETHING is moving me forward. And every step forward helps me gain momentum, and I can go as slow as I want as long as I am making progress. The other quote is from Thomas Edison, who when trying to invent the lightbulb famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Experiments may not always work the way you want them to - but even failed experiments bring you closer to achieving your desired outcome. It is so important to remember this, because if you’re anything like me (and most humans I’d wager), failure hurts, and can easily discourage.
Done is better than perfect.
I am seriously considering getting this tattooed on my body somewhere. I KNOW this is true. I also know that I have to constantly remind myself it’s true! If something is close to perfect, but you have not allowed it to be seen, then it is as good as dead. Things can always be re-iterated, evolved, refreshed, redesigned, be a Version 2.0, re-launched or totally re-done. But for now…GET. SHIT. DONE. And then allow the world a chance to have a look, and help move you closer to your dreams outcomes.
#Confession #Commitment #OhGodsWhatHaveIDone
I would like to end this by sharing something with you that may make you laugh (or cringe). One of the tiniest (but most perfect) examples of my struggle with perfectionism is my instagram account. I have 2 posts. I’ve had the account for about 3 years. 2 POSTS! You see I love beautiful images and photos and I’m an art director and and and….so I am terrified it won’t look ‘perfect’. So instead I don’t post anything. Which means it does nothing for me, I don’t share my ideas and designs, and it makes me feel genuinely embarrassed, but keeps me safe. But here’s the irony (and why I feel so strongly that I wanted to write this article) - the two posts that I have put up have had such lovely feedback and responses that I really have no excuse for not spending some time and love on my own feed (instead of just all my clients’!). It doesn’t need to be perfect. I just need to try, and to enjoy it. So I am committing here and now to posting at least one post a week from now on. If you would like to follow me and harass me if I don’t, I am @waynefick01 - but if not, that’s cool too. I have to be honest here, I wouldn’t follow an account with two posts lol.
I really hope this has been helpful in inspiring you to think about experimentation as a more desirable objective than perfection. Let’s stop trying to find the ‘perfect fit’ of anything - let’s just try things, and enjoy the process of being allowed to get messy, and make glorious mistakes.
You really are awesome. You’ve got this.
PS: I have created a desktop and phone size wallpaper with the quote ‘Done is better than perfect’ for you to download for free if you’d like it. Or download both in a zip file with both files. No email required :)
THE KINTSUGI JOURNAL
Kintsugi: The Japanese art of repairing what is broken or damaged with pure gold resin. A philosophical approach that teaches us to treat our flaws and experience as precious parts of us which make us more beautiful and unique, rather than striving for some perceived perfection.
Every Monday I will drop into your inbox to share new writing, links and resources from my own experience. I believe in sharing honest, helpful content that will help you build a more intentional business & life.