Here’s an excerpt from my new book Screw Work Break Free:
“Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we’ll escape the pain of criticism, ridicule, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us, when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.” – Brené Brown University of Houston research professor & author of two #1 New York Times Bestsellers
Attention to detail is a great talent but when it strays into perfectionism that stops you finishing things and releasing them to the world, it is no longer helping you. Perfectionism is driven by the belief that if we get everything ‘just right’, then no one will be able to criticise it, least of all our own internal critic or Top Dog.
The problem, of course, is that Top Dog always finds something to fault anyway! You could always have ‘done it better’. Or it barks that you should have done it quicker. That’s why author Anne Lamott says that, ‘Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor’.
Sometimes you just have to stop trying to placate your Top Dog and make friends with imperfection. Dare to dash something out that is good enough. When Top Dog growls, just sing out, ‘Don’t worry, be crappy!’
Version one is better than version none
If you have countless ideas and projects that you’ve never started or never finished because they weren’t quite right, don’t repeat the same pattern this time round. Get it done and get it out there. You can always improve on the next version or the next release.
Remember, this is just version 1.0. As co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, says: ‘If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, then you’ve launched too late’. The first version of LinkedIn launched in 2003 with limited functionality and attracted as few as 20 sign-ups a day. Ten years later it had 225 million members and is now growing at more than 150,000 a day. You have to start somewhere.
Whatever it is you’re doing, your first version, first event, first performance or first project won’t be perfect. Take your very best shot but get it done. Then you can iterate – go again and make it better.
Kanye West’s well known perfectionist streak has previously delayed albums and even entire tours so for his 2016 album Life of Pablo he decided to release it online as a beta version, describing it on Twitter as a ‘living breathing changing creative expression’. He has updated tracks on the album several times since then.
If you often hold back for a fear of not reaching perfection, why not try doing something different today: make something that is good enough and release it to the world anyway!
My new book Screw Work Break Free includes the Perfectionist Challenge, the instant procrastination fix, and a whole load of stories about ordinary people who launched amazing businesses from scratch. Download a free chapter now: