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Stop Trying to Be Perfect
Today's blog topic is one that is especially fresh in my thoughts as I have been writing, brainstorming, visualizing and designing (phew, I’m tired!) my first creative guide these past few weeks.
It is a topic that I struggle with more than I care to admit and something I have only recently begun to confront head on. I’m also betting that, if you are a passionate creative, it is something you have struggled with on some scale in the past too.
Perfectionism. Oh it can be a dirty little word, can’t it? For the longest time I was in denial about my own perfectionism. Me? Type A? I thought. There is no freaking way. My desk is usually messy, I am eternally scatterbrained and I can sometimes be happier when surrounded by chaos, not order. How can I be a perfectionist? (As if perfectionism and OCD are somehow correlated. Flawed logic, I am aware.)
But then I took a long hard look at my relationship with my work. Truthfully, I obsess. I over-think. I try to plan and prepare for every aspect of my business and after all the hours I pour in, I still never feel that my work fully lives up to the vision I have in my head. And, as it turns out, that kind of pressure is a creativity buzz-kill, let me tell you.
For instance, with the guide I am working on, I KNOW what my vision is for this thing. I believe in it with my whole heart, and with every word that I type, I am constantly thinking about YOU. How can I make it more helpful for you. More interesting. More engaging. More beautiful.
Honestly it was a struggle to get the first draft even written because I was constantly deleting and rewriting everything. It felt uncomfortable for me to put something down on paper that didn’t feel perfect. That is when a friend of mine pointed out something important to me. She said, “You could spend every hour of the rest of your life working on this guide and you would still find something to improve. Maybe it would come close to your perfect vision, but just think of all you would have sacrificed. Granted, her example was a bit dramatic, but it really put things into perspective for me. It made me realize that there is a threshold when we create an invisible line of diminishing returns. We need to stop trying to be perfect, yes? More effort might produce incremental improvements, but what do we sacrifice for those improvements? For many of us, we sacrifice just getting our work out into the world because we are so terrified it won’t be perfect.
Yesterday I visited the new location opening of one our favorite local coffee brewers. This company is incredibly conscientious about everything: their brewing process, the beautiful decor of the shop, the impeccably delicious baked goods that they serve. They strive for quality in every way. But, as I was waiting for my coffee (read: Iced Vanilla Latte), I noticed that two of the baristas were furiously looking for the Truvia which seemed to be MIA. Customers were asking for it but, given the unfamiliar environment of the new location, it was nowhere to be found.
As I watched the whole scene go down, I thought to myself, Do I think any less of this place? Does this tiny hiccup make me see the business any differently? No way. It is the first day and there are bound to be tiny flaws. Which made me realize: We are far more forgiving of the imperfections of others than we are of ourselves, as people and as businesses. What if at the start of the day, after realizing they couldn’t find the Truvia, they had decided to delay the opening? I would have missed out on my delicious latte. There is a difference between striving for quality and striving for perfection. As my friend Colin Wright says, “Perfection is like the horizon. We can aim for it, but we will never quite get there.
So now the question is: Is your standard of perfection holding you back from making progress? This week I want you to think about one way you have been holding yourself back because of perfection. Perhaps it is that Etsy shop you have been meaning to open, or your blog you have been designing and re-designing for ages, or that client proposal you have spent hours and hours working on. Are you waiting to launch your creative business because you want the perfect website or the perfect name?
Now is the time to ditch the perfection and just aim for quality. Figure out where that line of diminishing returns is for you and, once you hit it, let go of the rest.
My first creative guide will not be perfect -- just like my business, my emails, my brand, my everything isn’t perfect. But I am confident that it will be quality. And hey, if the Truvia goes missing, so what. Everyone will still get to enjoy my deliciously brewed latte, right? Right!
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