I was recently reminded of the saying “perfect is the enemy of good”and this got me thinking about personal demons and the things that block our creativity, productivity and ability to meet our goals.
Years ago I worked for a ferocious Irish director who was feared and admired in equal measure. He was great at using carrots and sticks to push buttons and get people moving. He wasn’t liked particularly but that was hardly the point, he motivated people to get things done.
I was so young and at a point in my career where, for the first time, the spotlight was on me and I had the opportunity to make an impression, elevate my career and deliver big-time on something important. This guy knew how to push numerous buttons for me, make me so angry I would exhaust myself smashing targets just to prove it could be done, but the thing I most remember was him cornering me one day and telling me that I was moving too slowly.
Despite everything I was doing, leading a big team for the first time, making critical decisions and being thrown into huge negotiations with little training, sympathy was lacking and he wasn’t happy. He told me that my efforts needed to be more focused and that, more particularly, I was so fixated on getting things perfect that I was starting to stagnate.
“Don’t get it right, just get it going” he told me, and it was good advice.
Self criticism, modesty and tenacity are important qualities to nurture, but sometimes it’s more a question of getting things moving, riding the momentum and starting something that is really what is required.
I advise students to revise by buying a nice clean new book, writing the exam topic on the front and putting at least a date and title on the first page. Now, this abstract concept has life, tangibility and meaning. Its not doing the hours of study but it IS a start. I have helped loads of would-be entrepreneurs or those hating their current jobs with the same advice, get a new pad and make it your moving on/new project bible. Try it.
I advise clients with writers block, stage fright or frozen into inaction to at least start by simply opening a document and saving it on their desktop with the title. There us something very powerful about that first step that is often enough all a project needs to get moving… the walk of a thousand miles and all that.
An object in motion gathers momentum, so just by starting in this small way we move things from the ethereal fiction of an idea or concept into something real, and that’s powerful.
So accepting the fact that we all procrastinate, especially because very often we are thinking about the right way to do things, about the best format or the most effective way to get something done, when really getting it going is often more the point. You can correct, improve, redraft and rewrite but until you get it going you are only thinking about something, to get it right, perfect, you have to first give it life.
Perfect comes later, sometimes, but you can’t even aspire to average unless you get it going.