“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself…”
Ever heard those words before? I’m guessing that you’ve often found some version of that “perfectionist’s creed” playing in a loop in your head as you’ve started and grown your business (and run your day-to-day life!).
I get it. We love to be in control. We love to get things done. We love having things done our way. And we are really, really, really good at some things, maybe even a lot of things. But perfect at all things? Is that even possible?
The more I think about it, the more I hear it from my clients, and the more I try to train myself out of it, the more I see self-proclaimed perfectionism as something quite different: laziness and anxiety in disguise.
Let me explain.
First of all, I think we can agree that doing anything “perfectly” is basically impossible because “perfect” is subjective. What I think is perfect, others might think sucks, and what they think is perfect, I might find seriously flawed. Perfect is a standard that we define and our definition will inevitably be different to someone else’s.
Secondly, perfectionism is often used as an excuse for not doing something – “Oh, that website, will never be as perfect as I want it to be, so I may as well not build it”; “My business will never be as big as I want it to be, so I’m not going to start it”; “This marketing campaign will never capture everything I want to convey, so why bother planning it” – OR perfectionism is used as an excuse to keep doing everything ourselves because we can’t be bothered to TRY to delegate to someone else or TRY to find someone who might, just might, be able to do it at least as well as (or maybe even better… gasp!), as we can or TRY to have a difficult conversation with a colleague or a partner about how they can contribute or improve.
Perfectionism maintains the status quo – we either don’t do something or we keep doing everything – and the status quo is, well, lazy.
And perfectionism keeps us from addressing our often baseless anxieties. “It has to be perfect or people will never buy it”; “No one will execute my vision as perfectly as I can”; “If I don’t do it, it won’t ever get done”; etc, etc, etc.
Do you think Richard Branson comes up with new business arms AND does the marketing plan AND does the pricing AND chooses the words for each ad AND makes the coffee? No!
Do you think Sara Blakely turned her product idea into a billion-dollar business by sewing each item of Spanx herself AND building her website AND shipping her products AND ordering the paper clips for the office? Hell no!
So why do we? Why do we think we can grow a business AND do it all because no one else can? Why do we hold ourselves back by deluding ourselves that we are the exception to every rule of success (delegate, leverage, focus on what you’re good at, test and iterate…)?
Are we really perfectionists? Or are we being lazy? Are we really perfectionists? Or are we just anxious?
Done is better than perfect. Trying is better than worrying. An imperfect business is better than one that stays in your head. Get something out there and improve, iterate, and – dare I say it! – perfect it later.
Be honest about what your “perfectionism” is costing you and your business, and then try, at least try, to hide behind the Perfectionist’s Creed a little less often.