I Got Stuck Inside The Perfectionist’s Paradox

[3-Min Read + Video] Perfectionism is the ultimate pursuit of excellence. But achieving that outcome demands I put imperfect work out into the world again, and again, and again.

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I Got Stuck Inside The Perfectionist’s Paradox

Perfectionism is the ultimate pursuit of excellence. But achieving that outcome demands I put imperfect work out into the world again, and again, and again.

In recent months, I’ve had to pull my perfectionism into line countless times. I’ve spent hours sitting silently at my computer, sweating the detail of something that feels important but ultimately isn’t. If allowed, my perfectionism would turn those hours into days and weeks.

My perfectionism emerges in some situations but remains latent in others.

For instance, when I started the blog that has become Inside a Bold Mind, I was okay with publishing something I knew would never win the Pulitzer Prize. I simply wanted to get started and see where it went. I permitted myself to take the time required to learn.

But with the workshop Answer Your Calling, my brain switched to trying to get it “right first time”.

When I had my consulting business, “right first time” was one of the philosophies that drove how things got done. We worked with clients to develop and implement their business strategies. With so much on the line, we had to perform to the best of our abilities.

Whenever I had worked with consultants in past jobs, it would annoy me when they submitted work with obvious flaws. It was like they couldn’t be bothered or didn’t value the relationship enough to proofread or do an extra round of checks. I didn’t want to inflict that same pain and disrespect on our clients, so we would aim to get the work “right first time”, or at least right to the best of our abilities. In a knowledge-based business, that philosophy also substantially impacts profitability.

Being a perfectionist stops me from achieving perfection.

While typing this, I’ve realised that the structure of Answer Your Calling is likely triggering my perfectionist tendencies. I have facilitated hundreds, possibly thousands of workshops during my career. Because of that experience, my egoic inner voice thinks I should be able to new workshop “right first time”. 

But innovation doesn’t work that way.

Breathing life into new ideas doesn’t work that way.

There is no shortcut to the start-up phase.

You have to sweat the iterations.

“I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

~ unknown

Thomas Edison worked out how to mass-produce light bulbs at an affordable price. The lamp factory that worked with Edison recorded 2774 experiments within their facilities and Edison himself didn’t know how many attempts he undertook.

(Most people attribute the above quote to him, although he refuted ever saying it.)

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a large number of iterations or “reps” to achieve a goal.

Perfectionism, the type that inhibits my ability to achieve perfection, is attempting to get there in one almighty leap.

You have 48 hours, get on with it!

Noah Kagan snapped me out of my perfectionist stupor. Or at least his voice did, as I listened to his new book Million Dollar Weekend on Audible.

Kagan achieved best-seller status within two weeks of launching his book and is zooming up the top seller’s list on Amazon. He has earned his success. The book took three years to write, and that happened after ten years of blogging and podcasting on the subject.

IMAGE: Cover of Million Dollar Weekend

Kagan asserts that you can and should allow no more than 48 hours to test the product-market fit of a new business concept. He slashes away all of the faffing, fiddling and philosophising to get to the heart of the matter: Will three people hand you money today for your offer? If not, move on to a new iteration or concept.

No months of preparation.

No minimum viable product.

No website.

No logo.

No fiddling with getting the font and images pixel-perfect.

No sweating if the blue is the right shade.

None of that is necessary until people are handing you money for your offer.

I’ve listened to Million Dollar Weekend three times in the last week. Every time I go out for a run, I have it in my ears, reminding me where to focus my energy.

Tweak. Test. Tweak. Test. Tweak. Test.

Those are the steps that ultimately empower me to achieve excellence. And that sounds like perfection to me.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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