Let's face it: Our implementation rarely, if ever, matches our vision. It is why Windows has a million software updates, why Kanye West keeps tweaking his music after it is released, and why authors like myself would still be working on our books if it weren't for a deadline. We want to get closer to the ever-elusive music in our heads. Unfortunately, that can prevent us from shipping our product, if even starting at all.
I recently saw Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani do a great TED talk on the topic, specifically on how the learned pursuit of perfectionism has prevented more girls from entering the STEM fields. If you are at all familiar with programming, then you know it is a cycle of creating code, breaking code, and fixing code. Perfectionism isn't a trait that works well for coders.
If perfectionism is tough for coders, then it could be fatal for entrepreneurs. Deadlines, market demands, and competition mean that we can't afford for our work to be perfect. Here are three solid ways I help keep my perfectionism at bay.
1. Consider it an experiment: I absolutely need to write my new ideas down on scrap pieces of paper. Why? It keeps me from overthinking. Imagine if we committed each big idea to a multi-slide Powerpoint or began writing our great books in a massive word processing document. The flow and genius of the idea would likely not handle the amount of pressure we put on ourselves - hence the number of brilliant people with abandoned ideas and unfinished novels.
2. Invest less: Clarity usually comes in two extremes: When everything is on the line and when nothing is on the line. As entrepreneurs, we lean heavy on the former, risking emotional and financial ruin when we often could be more moderate. The problem, of course, is that there is a chance of losing. On the other hand, try exploring a new opportunity from a casual perspective: Attend a low-impact, low-cost conference, talk to someone in your brain trust that is pursuing it, listen to a podcast on the topic. The lack of pressure may give you the space to truly figure out how to implement it best.
3. Visualize your failure: It is contradictory, but imagining your failure may help you understand the true source of perfectionism: What you fear. When I felt insecure about being a journalist transitioning into an entrepreneur, I realized the worst that could happen would be I'd lose some time and money - and gain some stories to tell. Even if I failed, I'd be better able to relate to the entrepreneurs that I interviewed. I gave myself permission to fail, which made me feel secure enough to take the risks to succeed.