Scrap Perfection, Embrace Action

How is the quest for perfection damaging to our goals?

By DAILY TREASURER

INTRODUCTION

I recently listened to an episode of “The Tim Ferriss Show” podcast, in which Tim interviewed Kevin Systrom (co-founder of Instagram)

Out of the few Tim Ferriss podcast episodes I’ve listened to, I thought this one was especially helpful.  I think the things that Kevin shared were not only insightful but also down to earth. 

“I think the things that Kevin [Systrom] shared were not only insightful but also down to earth.”

THE IMPERFECTION OF PERFECTION

Kevin talked about the journey of Instagram, and it was especially interesting to hear about some of the company’s challenges over the years.  

One of the things he shared that really resonated with me was that no amount of preparation or planning in business will result in a perfect outcome.  Trends, demands, and innovation will require a business to make adjustments as time goes on.  What might be perfect at one point in time will likely become imperfect due to changes.

Instagram was no exception.  Kevin suggested how just doing things and letting things play out was actually advantageous for the company.  Rather than trying to predict all of the variables in play, Kevin and his company addressed issues and problems as they developed.  The important thing wasn’t that things were complex.  The important thing was that things worked.

“The important thing wasn’t that things were complex.  The important thing was that things worked.”

HOW TO USE IMPERFECTION TO GET STUFF DONE

When it comes down to getting things done, we just have to do it.

That is relatively easy to understand on a conceptual level, but let’s break down that principle into smaller chunks.

1. Identify your dream, goal, problem, or stimulus.  The easy way to think of this is asking yourself, “What do I need to act on?”

2. Ask yourself, “What’s the big picture?”  Avoid thinking too much in terms of technicalities.  Focusing on the details can be done later, during the tweaking process.  For now, ask yourself what really matters in terms of the process of creation.

3. Procure necessary equipment.  Does what you need to do require you to get some equipment?  For example, do you need some podcasting equipment and software in order to start your podcast?  Go ahead and do your research on what kind of equipment will suit your needs.  Think of these things as an investment toward your goals, rather than thinking of them as a sunk cost.

5. Create or make your first attempt at what you conceived in your mind.  It’s not going to be perfect.  To be honest, probably not even close.  But, you’re already WAY ahead of people who have great ideas but let fear hold them back.

6. Make adjustments.  Okay, so now you know what you created isn’t perfect.  In fact, you might think that it’s utter doo-doo.  That’s fine.  At least, now you know that for a fact (since you created something tangible) as opposed to imagining it to be true.  Make adjustments as issues and problems occur.  Don’t overthink your adjustment strategy.  Just adjust.

“Make adjustments as issues and problems occur.  Don’t overthink your adjustment strategy.  Just adjust.”

“BUT, MY LINE OF WORK CAN’T AFFORD ANY IMPERFECTIONS!”

There are certain career fields that might not be able to afford the ability to go out on a limb and take a “just do it” risk.  That is a valid point, and I would agree that not every career field or situation would allow for it.

My response to that is two-fold.

One, reserve the “just do it” mindset for your organization’s more strategic initiatives rather than for the day-to-day activities. 

Most organizations will step back from the busyness of work, and start thinking about whether operations are optimal in the present environment and conditions.  Developing and stewarding strategy is an important part of any organization’s health.

The next time your organization might ask for feedback for the sake of growth and improvement, don’t be afraid to share your ideas.  Do this even if you think your idea might be “weird.”  This is your rare opportunity to suggest something that might positively change the trajectory of your organization or workflow.  It also might not, but you never know.

And, what if you’re in a role that doesn’t ask for your feedback?  A couple of thoughts here.  One, is there a relatively trusting and influential person at your work that you can share ideas with?  Share your ideas with that person so that they might be able to bring them to the table to the decision-makers of the organization.  Two, consider being bold enough to reach out to a decision-maker of your organization.  Do your research, of course, but be confident in sharing your idea(s) if you have a conviction that you have a great idea.

Two, consider if there is anything within your personal workflow or mindset that you can change without directly affecting others.  A common example I observe is people just not feeling “motivated” to accomplish things with a sense of urgency.  

I have previously mentioned Mel Robbins’ principle of the “5 Second Rule,” and I think that is applicable to this particular example.  Tell yourself that you have a five-second window to get yourself to do something, and do it.  Or else, you risk losing your opportunity to resolve something that might otherwise linger in your mind and stress you out again in the future.

Or, maybe you just need to manage your workflow productivity and tracking differently.  Maybe you keep track of projects manually by pen and paper, but that hasn’t really been working out well for you.  Maybe you need a change of scenery in that regard.  There are different apps and software (many of them free) for those things.  Some examples include Trello and Microsoft OneNote.

I have personally used Microsoft OneNote to help me get organized, and I actually use it for things outside of work as well.  I keep my reading notes (for books that I read) and shopping lists on OneNote as well, especially because I can access OneNote on various devices (in my case, work laptop, personal laptop, and my phone).

CONCLUSION

In most cases, your quest for perfection will not yield perfection.  And, that’s okay.  By just “going for it,” the time you save can be immense.  By going for it, you avoid imagining the many “what if” scenarios that might not happen.  

It’s good to have some degree of planning, but not to the point where you talk yourself out of a potentially life-changing idea.  You can always say “no” and scrap the idea down the road after you do something, but don’t say “no” to opportunities before you even take a chance on them!  Sometimes, the cost of not doing something is much greater than the cost of doing something and the risk of it not working out.

In the words of a popular athletic brand, “Just do it!” 

Kind regards,

Daily Treasurer

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