When I was in college, one of the ‘brightest students’ once gave a presentation at a Debate Society meeting. She was regarded as one of the brightest students because she represented the Faculty in international competitions and her team achieved a lot at several world rounds. So, we all respected her opinions.
One of the points she mentioned as a contributing factor to her success is perfectionism. She said that she painstakingly ensured that she avoided any mistakes in her work. She always worked to achieve a perfect outcome.
Her presentation sipped into my subconscious mind that day. And the drive to create the perfect work really helped me at some point. I was a freelance writer. I couldn’t afford to make mistakes. But a part of me hated writing what someone else wanted. I wanted the freedom to create something from my mind without being bound by conventions and practices.
That’s why I started my company. However, perfectionism was a strong part of me. On my personal development blog, I always wanted to write the best articles. I read books just to write an article. I wanted it to be the best. But it wasn’t sustainable. This blog isn’t making me any money yet. So, I still need to work. I run a digital marketing consultancy where I advise startups. And this can be demanding.
So, I find myself failing the promise I made to myself to blog every week.
I’ve always been an admirer of Seth Godin. He blogs every day. He has been blogging since 1995, and, by now, he has over 7000 blog posts. I want that, but I almost don’t see it happening. At some point, I started to be an indirect hater by saying that consistency doesn’t always mean progress.
But that was my mistake. People don’t necessarily want the perfect content, they just want something they can relate to. They want something to help and brighten their day. And that’s why Seth gets millions of readers on every blog post and my ‘perfect’ blog posts don’t even get a slice of that.
Perfectionism is great when you’re working as a financial analyst. You want to get the numbers perfectly. But when you’re in the creative world, it is not the benchmark. Just like the saying goes ‘every mistake in art is a design.’
Seth Godin mentioned in an interview that he doesn’t care about writing the perfect thing. But he cares about showing up and never missing a deadline. You can catch the interview here:
So, some of his posts, according to him are great, while some others are below average. He doesn’t go back to delete them or cross his fingers hoping for a favorable review. What he does is to write something new the next day.
And that’s the perfect idea for me. It’s not about doing something that will blow everyone’s mind on the internet, it is about constantly showing up. We’re all work in progress and we can only ensure that what we do now is better than what we did 2 years ago.
And I think that’s the best thing you can do. If you’re a creative, don’t sit around reading and racking your mind for the best idea like me, just do something.
The irony of it is that what you think isn’t perfect or good enough might be — to your audience — one of the best things you have ever worked on.
I see The Simpsons on Fox every weeknight. It’s my favorite TV show. Not every episode is great, but I still feel bad when I miss an episode. Great or below average, I just want to see it. And the funny thing is that the show has predicted a lot of events that later happened in reality.
So, the best idea is consistency. Always show up.