I was at a conference this past week when one of the speakers, a copywriter by the name of Ray Edwards, nailed me–in a positive way.
The way he got to me was by asking two simple questions. Showing a picture of a MacDonald’s hamburger, he asked,
1. How would you describe the quality of a MacDonald’s hamburger?
2. Who sells the most hamburgers in the world?
Point made. Point received.
I don’t know about you, but I often get stuck by trying to make something “perfect.” I have three books, several new talks, and a couple of projects all stuck in varying states of completion–not because I can’t get them done–but because I want to make them PERFECT!
In the literary world, it’s the equivalent of wanting to write, “The Next Great American Novel.” It’s the desire to want to write something that “no one else has written.” Or to say something so compelling that newswires will want to pick it up, blogs will want to make it viral, TV reporters will want to call for interviews, and schools of business will want to make it required reading (of course, by this point, you’ve already figured out–this guy lacks reality–exactly!).
It’s this longing to do something perfect, to do something that causes people to take notice, that tends to hinder so many of us. When, in reality, we ought to set our sights a little lower. While I may want to write the “ultimate” guide to growing a business, there is no such ultimate book to be written.
In the mean time, while I’m waiting to create the perfect/ultimate book, others are publishing their books and making money–and the people I could be helping out are missing out.
Likewise, in your world, chances are (if you’ve been infected with the disease of perfectionism), you’re doing something similar. You have projects on hold, products that haven’t been launched, services that haven’t gone public, talks and letters that haven’t been written, and presentations that haven’t seen the light of day, etc. Not because you can’t get them done, but because you’re waiting until the thing you’re working on is … well, perfect.
But in a business environment, perfection is not the goal–it’s an impediment. In fact, when Ray was speaking I wrote in my notes, “Perfection > leads to procrastination > which leads to poverty.”
While you or I may want to create the perfect burger (metaphorically), the reality is that someone else (MacDonalds, in this case), is making a ton of money while we’re still in the design phase.
So, if your goal is making money, or influencing others, or meeting a critical need or want for your target market, then you’ll want to revisit this MacDonald’s hamburger metaphor again and again. Make sure you beat down the perfection monster. And whatever you do, make sure you get what you’re working on out in the world. As I’ve said for years,
“Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you’ve got in the amount of time you’ve got to get it done.”
So what projects have you been holding off on or delaying because of perfectionism? And how much more money (or whatever metric your project works with) could you be making if you stopped waiting for perfection and just got that thing out in the marketplace?
To your accelerated success!