By Annie Pettit
For many people, January 1st is the day of change. It’s the day to begin putting apples instead of cookies into the office kitchen or start arriving at work a half hour earlier every day to take advantage of quiet time. But really, there’s nothing magical about January 1st. It comes in the middle of winter for some people and in the middle of summer for others. It has the most daylight hours for some and the fewest for others. It’s a date with no special significance other than the year is incremented by a unit of one. In other words, there is zero reason to wait 4, 6, or 10 months until the year is incremented to start something. Indeed, in waiting, you’ll have lost 4, 6, or 10 months that could have been spent building a new brand, or innovating your services. Charles Dederich (1914 to 1997), founder of 1960s drug rehabilitation organization Synanon, famously said, “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” The point is simple. Stop waiting and start doing.
Tight deadlines have left me without time to find typos in a client report and SQL code that didn’t do what I thought it did. Of course, if I were to pause in my tracks until I had reached the ultimate of perfection in everything I do, I’d still be rehearsing for my grade 2 class’s rendition of ‘The Three Little Pigs.’ Perfection is a dangerous and unnecessary roadblock to progress and success. We need to take pride in and appreciate the work we’ve completed thus far and know that even better work awaits us tomorrow and next week. In the immediate intensity of a project, work might seem subpar. And maybe it is. But achieving perfection in all things all the time is unattainable and undesirable. Mike Knapp, the Founder of Shoes of Prey, says we need to get in front of customers even if the product or service isn’t perfect. Reject the need to be perfect.
When it was time for my cohorts and I to apply to post-secondary education, we were instructed to choose three university programs. If two schools said no, maybe the third would say yes. We were primed for failure. Robert Pirsig’s book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintencance” got 121 no’s before it got a yes. Jay-Z got no’s from every record label before he decided to launch his album himself. When you have an idea or goal that you truly believe in, keep pushing until it happens. Don’t give up because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t take no for an answer.
I’m a huge fan of Twitter. I chat about market research, statistics, charts, conferences, diversity of conference speakers, plus a lot of nonsense. What you won’t see me tweeting about, however, are my lows. I don’t tweet about the days I’m sick or unproductive. I don’t talk about my failures. To an outsider, my career path looks linear. I went to school (after getting rejected a few times), got good jobs (after hearing no many times), and success magically occurred (though I was laid off from one job). Everyone’s path to success has a completely different set of ups and downs and twists and turns. It may seem like everyone else’s path led directly to success but in reality, your path is probably no more complicated nor difficult than theirs. In fact, having experienced their own collection of ups and downs, older start-up founders are more likely to be successful than younger founders. There is no clear path to success.
More than anyone else, you know what you love and what you’re great at. You have a unique perspective of why you like or dislike certain products or services, and how you could improve them. As much as you’d like to spend weeks or months analyzing the competition, or strategizing the best ways to beat the competition, you can’t control what they’re doing. Your strength is your unique perspective, your unique team, your unique strategies. As someone striving to build products and services that people want and need, you need to focus on what you can do, how you can be great, why your perspective is great. Sure, it’s essential to know what your competitors are doing, but there’s a much bigger world out there. Don’t focus solely on the competition
If you can adhere to these five quick tips, you’ll be ready to make today is the day you start rejecting perfectionism. Know what your success looks like and refuse to take no for an answer.