Many of the most successful people out there seem to be perfectionists, or at least that’s how it looks. You know the type- always working, sweating the details, constantly tweaking things to squeeze just a little more performance out of them. In most cases, however, these people aren’t seeking perfection, just a higher standard than the rest of us. To the outside observer, it might look like only perfectionists become successful, but that kind of thinking can be downright detrimental.
I first came across this concept years ago when I stumbled across the Cult of Done Manifesto. It’s a somewhat extreme approach to being more productive by focusing on completion over perfection. For many people getting started with marketing (or any new skill, for that matter), it’s more important that you do something than it is that you do it perfectly. So here are four reasons why perfect really is the enemy of done.
Sorry! Don’t even try to argue, you can’t. You could work on a single blog post every waking moment until you leave this earth, and it still won’t be perfect. No ad will make every person who sees it buy your product. No call to action will get 100% of your website visitors to sign up for your newsletter. No Facebook post will ever be liked or shared by everyone who sees it.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to create quality work, by all means do your best, keep in mind however that the goal is to finish the project you’re working on. If you’ve never blogged before, your posts probably won’t be that great at first, and that’s fine! The more you work on something the better you’ll get at it and the easier it will become. Focus on execution now, so that you can learn how to focus on quality down the road.
When taking on a large, important or otherwise intimidating task, wanting it to be absolutely perfect can lead to not knowing where to start. “If I want this to be perfect, what’s the next thing I should do?” Who knows? Since we’ve already established that it will never be perfect, no one can say for sure what the perfect next step would be. Doubting what to do next can be paralyzing, and leads to procrastination. Procrastination means this important task never gets finished, and now you’re in trouble.
Instead of trying to do something perfectly, just try to do it. That question, “what’s the next thing I should do?” is easily answered by the word “start”. There’s a great saying that “beginning is half done.” Every time you sit down to work on your project, just start. Don’t hold yourself to an unattainable standard, give yourself permission to make mistakes and focus on the finish line.
A project you never finish because it isn’t perfect is about as useful as one you never start. For all the good it does you, not pulling the trigger on your latest marketing piece, product, article, or whatever means it may as well not exist at all. The product you never release because it isn’t quite perfect will never make you one red cent.
Remember that the work you’re doing is supposed to be working for you, and it can’t do that if you never finish it. As long as you’re still tinkering and chasing perfection, you’ll never reap the benefits of all your hard work. A lousy book that gets published always sells more copies than an unfinished manuscript collecting dust on your shelf. Your work can always be better, and there’s always more you could do, but at some point you have to say “good enough” so you can move on and keep creating.
Wanting your work to be perfect is often less about taking pride in your work, and more about fear of failure and rejection. “If this video for my website isn’t perfect, my business will fail and I’ll be worthless.” We want people to see us as intelligent, talented, and successful, and when we doubt ourselves and our own abilities, that fear of failure can cause us to create impossibly high standards for ourselves.
Take a deep breath. Not everything you put your hands to will be a runaway success. You’re going to make mistakes. Classic novels that have stood the test of time had typos in their first editions. Monuments of cinema contain continuity errors. Big brands have created some of the most incredible social media failures of all time. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be ok. Keep trying, keep creating value, keep giving your customers the best service you can, and you’ll do just fine.
Successful people are productive people. They don’t make one perfect thing and then retire wealthy, they are always creating and adding value. These same people also have longer lists of failures than the average person. That’s right, successful people fail more often. That’s just part of doing more and creating more. The more things you finish, the more failures you’ll have, but the more success you’ll have as well. Do more, get more done, and strive for productivity instead of perfection.
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