I knew a woman who lost her husband at age twenty five and never remarried. She feared anything new would be less than the ‘perfect’ marriage she’d enjoyed for less than two years. She never risked dating or even connecting deeply with men until she died at age seventy-four.
Here’s the part of the story that causes a dull ache when I think of my friend. She confessed when I met her late in her life that she’d hated living alone all those years. Her fear of imperfection caused a lifetime of loneliness.
Now, choosing to live alone isn’t always a bad choice…I know plenty of folks who have lived full, vibrant lives without a partner. But a life lived in unresolved fear is not vibrant and it won’t accomplish what we’re put here to do.
At this point you may be asking how any of this relates to starting a business. Here’s the thing: if we fear being imperfect, we may never start a business that could have real impact on the lives of others. Refusing to risk that your business won’t perform perfectly to your projections keeps your product or service out of the hands of people it could benefit.
Same goes for freelancing. If we fear we won’t create the ‘perfect’ manuscript, we may not write at all. But what if our story was supposed to be read by a specific person at this exact time so that they were encouraged, challenged or enlightened? Not only are our lives diminished by our fears, that reader may not be moved in the same way by someone else’s writing.
About Perfection and a Lot More about Reality.
Perfection is always, always, always in the eye of the beholder. Maybe in Olympic gymnastics we can get a ‘perfect’ score, but the rest of life is flooded with imperfections. The salesman who seems to give a ‘perfect’ pitch is really just someone who has found a way to relate deeply and persuasively to his customers.
The small business owner who seems perfectly in tune with the needs of his customers is actually someone who has watched and listened and shifted to meet the needs of his audience.
The writer who writes with ‘the perfect blend of mystery and edgy cynicism’ probably is spot-on with prose, but is her writing really ‘perfect?’ What if the reviewer didn’t care for edgy mysteries? Would a less-than-perfect review invalidate her months spent writing? Should she no longer be in the business of writing? Or could it just mean that particular audience wasn’t moved?
Let’s make our way back to letting fear of imperfection prevent us from starting a business. When we’ve done our research and found our funding and perfected our product offerings, can the fear of a less than perfect product launch keep us paralyzed? It could, or we could choose reality. And the reality is that every single thing a human being has ever created, launched, dreamed up or built could be nitpicked. But the really good things, the things we’ve done our best to perfect, need to be released to the world anyway.
So let’s just do it. Let’s focus on ‘excellence’ rather than ‘perfection’.
Let’s encourage those we know who’ve let fear freeze their dreams to do their very best and watch what happens. And you know what? It may not turn out perfectly. But those stories, not the ones about what was never risked, are the ones I want to hear.
I’m curious…what fears have you allowed to keep you from starting a business or career? In what ways has the pursuit of perfection, rather than excellence, hampered your success? What kind of help do you need to move forward with your dreams?