The First Step to Starting Anything Is Getting Over Your Perfectionism
Oh, the joy and pain of starting something new. When Jared Easley, host of Starve the Doubts podcast, asked me if I planned to attend this year’s Podcast Movement conference I couldn’t say “no” fast enough. Jared didn’t take it personally, even though he’s one of the co-founders for the conference. He knew I wasn’t podcasting and had never expressed any desire to create a podcast, he just thought I “should” be getting into the podcast space.
Of course, I went. Partly because I was curious and partly because I knew he was right -- podcasting is showing itself to be a vehicle for reaching people and touching lives. I would be short sighted to ignore it.
It was easier to decide to attend Podcast Movement than it was to admit to myself, or anyone else, why I’d resisted. I was scared.
First, I have had some clinical issues with my voice and what was once a well-trained emotive instrument sometimes lets me down after only a couple of hours of work.
Second, I have a love-hate relationship with technology; I love it, it hates me. So embarking on an enterprise that is tech-dependent seemed a tad risky.
But, third, there was the real fear, the one I don’t like to talk about. Perfectionism. I wasn’t scared I wouldn’t be perfect. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect. I was scared about what it would mean to not be perfect.
So I said “yes” to Jared. I even said “yes” to a podcast. I started getting excited about using a podcast as a way to collaborate with my life partner. But under the excitement was the fear. Not fear of failure. But fear of being less than I wanted to be. Fear of not being perfect.
My partner and I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions. The conference was exceptionally well structured, the staff and attendees were helpful. While there was a lot of tech talk floating around, there was none of the tech elite attitude I had expected. I started to think maybe I could do this thing.
Then we attended Jeff Brown’s session; “How to Prepare, Polish and Execute Great Interviews Every Time (i.e. How not to Suck at Interviewing.)”
Jeff is the guy behind the Read to Lead podcast, he teaches all things podcasting through his Podcaster Academy, and he’s been at the mic in radio for more than 26 years. Plus, this topic was one I feel strongly about, having been on the guest side of the interview equation for many enjoyable, and not so enjoyable, interviews. If there was any part of podcasting I wanted to be perfect at, this was it.
Jeff had barely gotten started when he shattered my excuses, and invalidated my fears. He opened with two points about starting a podcast, or anything else:
One, excellence comes from preparation. Athletes spend 90 percent of their effort in preparing for the game and 10 percent playing the game. If we used that ratio of 90 percent preparation to 10 percent performance we would achieve excellence.
Two, perfection is a moving target. But excellence is within reach.
Two simple and inarguable truths. Excellence comes from consistent improvement. Dedication to preparation and practice yields increased excellence. Perfection cannot even be defined, let alone achieved.
At that moment, sitting in the back of that packed room, I let go of my fear. I won’t be perfect, I might not even be excellent when I begin. But I know how to achieve excellence and that is as close to perfect as I ever need to be.
At the end of the conference I was introduced to Jeff Brown by a mutual friend. During our brief chat he mentioned that the point he made about excellence was inspired by a comment on a Facebook post. A comment that I had written on a post by one of his friends. I didn't remember writing it, but he still had the screen shot of the comment. He was kind enough to send to me. Here’s a part of what I had posted:
“Perfection is a moving target designed to prevent launch. Excellence is just a way of saying ‘this is how I approach anything that matters to me.’ Basically, be better, do better, but don’t let fears of not having done well enough keep you from doing anything.”
What is the quest for perfection keeping you from launching? How can you aim for excellence instead?