Okay. So let’s say you have a creative idea that’s been beckoning, and you muster the courage to finally do it. You take all the clichéd self-help advice, and you decide to start now.
If you’re anything like me, it’s likely that your perfectionism may now try to ensnare you.
In the name of doing your thing, whether it’s making your art, writing your novel or starting your business, there may be an irresistible urge to go into Preparation Mode and never come out.
When this happens, you will want to do what I did for a while, which is to rationalize the total lack of forward motion with the excuse that you’re doing “research” or “preparation” or that you still need A, B, and C in place before you can X, Y, and Z.
And this is fear masquerading as perfectionism.
It can zap you of energy, it can leave the creative idea that once felt sparkly and alive feeling stale (or more terrifying with each passing day), and it will basically keep your idea forever in the realm of the abstract.
There are certain things you must prepare, like your craft. It’s probably good to focus on quality. But you’ll begin to feel when you step across that fine line of real preparation and avoidance when you feel a certain drudgery start to creep in.
The Thing will lose its luster, because it wants to be born through you, it wants you to breathe life into it. It wants to take you by the hand, but you’ve clenched your fist in fear.
There are companies that do this: they focus too much on the competition instead of just making their own kickass product people love and letting the value speak for itself. They buy fancy desks and software when they could just create their minimum viable product with the basics, moving fast and breaking (and making) things.
There are creatives that do this, too. This may take the form of buying the best stuff before you start producing something when you could get by with the cheap stuff, or studying past the point where you could start making, because you’re afraid to make something that’s amateur.
But no one starts pro. Everyone begins as an amateur.
Ira Glass, the guy behind This American Life, the father of all modern podcasts (probably), said something in an interview that’s stuck with me. He said he listened to some of his earliest tapes and was taken aback by how utterly untalented he sounded, and that there was not even a hint that he may ever exhibit any knack for radio.
And now he’s the undisputed King of Radio.
I personally find that beautiful: we all start somewhere.
It’s also scary, because it means you almost certainly have to suck first. And if you suck, you might look stupid. And if you look stupid, the tribe might banish you, supposedly, and your mammalian instinct to belong gets all fired up and your lizard brain starts catastrophizing the imagined failure.
But it's like that statistic where we think everyone’s looking at us at a party but actually everyone’s just wrapped up in their own heads, thinking the same self-conscious thoughts.
Fear can stop you in your tracks on the road to something beautiful.
And that something doesn’t have to be big, but it can feel right and it can feel really enjoyable and I think we all deserve to experience that when we’re graced with the possibility.
This fear can also be crafty, and it can look like progress but it’s really just sophisticated procrastination.
I’m even more prone to this than maybe other people, because my favorite thing in the world to do is to consume ideas and read interesting things, and let all the ideas collide in my mind until insights emerge. I live and breathe on that. So I’ll slip into the rabbit hole regularly. My “research” can take weeks, months even. If I’m ever tasked with something, I will start compulsively reading and researching it before I do anything.
But as scared as I am of action (and failure), I’m even more afraid of letting my mind and heart become a graveyard of unfinished ideas and unrealized dreams. That would truly break my heart.
So a big shift I’ve made recently is to commit to action bias. And my intent is to keep this promise to myself until it becomes second nature.
This is why I started the #100daysproject. I’ve always wanted to write, to share ideas. I always thought I had to become highly successful before I had a platform to do that. And maybe I do, and I don’t have much expertise in anything quite yet (beyond yoga and digital marketing, I suppose). But this is my practice, and it feels good to engage with the craft itself. It feels right.
The #100days is not a small commitment, because it’s my way of directly confronting my instinct to wait and perfect. It’s how I can hopefully become more acquainted with Discomfort, an acquaintance I imagine will become a constant companion if I’m going to live the life that feels worth living.