Maybe you can relate to me. I’m a chronic perfectionist. I have a love for quality and that’s a good thing, but my default state is to make every detail perfect. Some of you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
You have good taste and high standards, that’s why what you makes frustrates you so much. It’s not yet as good as your vision and that can be discouraging. Most people quit here. They have this image in their mind and when the results don’t line up the first time they try, they quit.
The key is being willing to put out less than perfect work.
Closing the Mental Gap
This is the only way to close the gap between what you’ve made and the image of perfection in your mind. Yes, it’s going to drive you crazy because all you’ll see are the imperfections, but you have to put it out there anyway. It’s not yet up to your standards, but let’s face it:
You’re struggling because your standards of perfection are so unrealistically high that they’re causing paralysis.
That’s why I say for the person struggling with perfectionism like me, you want to shoot for 90% perfect. It’s totally a mental thing, but because of your high standards, 90% perfect to you is still going to be better quality than the vast majority of what’s out there.
There’s a disconnect between what we see in our minds and what we’re able to achieve. This gap can be closed, but only over time and only after making a ton of less-than-perfect work.
Note that I said less-than-perfect work. The gap doesn’t close after you’ve made a ton of perfect work. If your idea of the perfect workout is being able to curl a 50 lb dumbbell and you’re not yet strong enough to pick it up, how do you get closer to that goal? You can’t just keep attempting to curl the 50 lb weight and when you can’t even make it budge and saying, “Well, I guess I’m not going to work out until I can someday do this 50 lb weight.”
No! You have to do a bunch of reps at a lower level. The first time you try, you may have to start with 20 lbs, or 10 lb, or even 2 lb. You’re stuck right now because you want the 50 lb dumbbell.
Perfectionism Doesn’t Make You Special
It’s the same thing with writing, with art, and with music: You’ve seen other people do these things well and you’re comparing yourself to them. You have these grand visions in your head of what you want to be able to achieve and you’re not there yet.
Here’s the good news and the bad news all at once: you’re not special.
Everyone struggles. Everyone has to work to be good at something.
Everyone has to work to close the gap between what they make and the image of perfection in their mind.
Even if they have some level of talent or natural ability or talent, it’s merely the first step in a life long journey. Any level of effort that you put in allows you to easily can surpass them. Everyone has to work hard.
“What about the people who make it look easy?” The people making it look easy worked even harder!
If you allow perfectionism to be your master in the beginning, it’s going to keep you from ever even starting.
Will You Quit?
Believe me, when you first start out, your early work isn’t going to be that great. This is where most people quit. Do you hear me?
If the first or second, or 700th time isn’t as good as you want it to be, try the 7,000th time! Your early work is not going to be great. It’s just a part of the process. What you can’t afford is perfectionism keeping you from putting something imperfect out there. You have to put out less-than-perfect work. It’s the only way to close the gap!
90% it. Get it to 90% perfect and ship it. Not allowing yourself to get to perfect is going to be the hardest thing that you ever do as a perfectionist.
90% ≠ Low Quality
Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not talking about putting out shoddy work. The reason you’re able to ship something that’s 90% perfect is because of your standards. They’re unrealistically high, remember? They’re so high, they’re keeping you from progressing! That’s why 90% works.
It actually takes twice as much work to get it from 90% to 100% perfect!
It’s not about lowering the quality, it’s about bringing it within reason.
Take it from a chronic perfectionist: the only way I’ve been able to put out as much content as I have is by embracing 90%. I had to come up with this just to survive. I had to come up with a way to defeat the paralysis of perfection. I can honestly say since thinking this way, it’s had one of the greatest impacts on my career.
As a result, thousands of people have written in to personally thank me for what I’ve written or made that had a positive affect on them. Think about that! I’ve been able to help people because I overcame my own perfectionism. They were helped by something I put out that was 90% of what I think would be perfect. They were helped by something that wouldn’t otherwise be out in the world.
I hope this encourages you if you’re a perfectionist to put out 90% perfect work to close the gap.