This weekend during a wonderful trip to Sedona, I was talking with my son Jeffery about his paintings in progress. He had done a lot of work on a number of canvases, but found finishing the paintings was difficult.
So I recalled the advice I wrote about a few months ago from my friend Ramit Sethi: Perfectionists are losers.
Starting a project is the fun part: imagining what you want to do, scoping it out, creating the big vision, and making the first moves. Once you get a lot of material drawn or written, however, it is easy to get paralyzed.
- What if it doesn’t turn out how you imagined?
- What if no one likes it?
- What if no one buys it?
- What if someone else does it better?
- What if you have been wasting your time and should have done something else?
When you get to this awkward, uncomfortable stage, I suggest you pick up Ramit’s phrase and start to repeat it: perfectionists are losers.
Losers, of course, in the sense that by maintaining an impossible standard of achievement, you deprive the world the satisfaction of experiencing your project or paper or book or picture.
And you deprive yourself the joy of completion.
Not everyone will love it. But for someone, it will be just the right thing, at the right time.
And if everyone hates it, including you, you get to recite a powerful and sacred mantra: Who cares?
So if you are sitting on a project waiting for a majestic wind to sweep in and motivate you to finish it, don’t hold your breath.
Just pick up your pen, or paintbrush, or keyboard and get cracking.
I am right with you.
Picture of Jeffery by Ivan Martinez, who you might remember from an earlier post.
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That was a wonderful post. Someone has commented on this thread saying we all think we are alone in our misery – so true! I’ve been hatching a batch of travel guides for the last one month and just can’t get motivated enough to finish them and all along I’ve been in my ‘my exclusive misery zone’ – justifying every distraction.
Your post made me feel better and a little more motivated – thanks! And that’s what I am going to finish 🙂
That is wonderful to hear!
One thing that I have learned from blogging these last 3 years is that we *need* each other to keep going and get our things done! So many others feel the way you do (me too at times!), so just knowing that is often enough to get the last burst of energy to complete.
Please share your guides when done!
All the best,
Spot on Pam.
In my experience it’s easy for people to get fired up about the prospect of a new project, but following through is another matter entirely. They get riddled with self doubt and self criticism, often before they’ve even started.
It takes courage and a solid sense of confidence to embark on something without knowing exactly how it’ll turn out.
If the project has a personal relevance or matters to you in some way, then it becomes easier to handle whatever might happen along the way.
Success and happiness isn’t dependent on the outcome, so if it’s not perfect or a handful of folks don’t like it, don’t sweat it. The point is to plug into something that matters to you and engage with the process.
Just a little wrinkle to add to the article. Many times our children (and ourselves!) find it hard to “finish” work on their painting (or our book/project/etc) because it is in fact DONE!
That’s all there is. There ain’t no more! The original vision has been realized, the goal has been met, you’re seeing it on paper just the way you imagined it in your mind. Maybe the idea just wasn’t as big as you hoped. That’s OK.
Seeing it as complete, regardless of other’s opinions, is seeing what is real and make it easy to move on fast.
Oh but it takes diversity to make the world go round. Unlike those that are perfectionists their are others, like me, who may lack the vision/motivation to start the project.
Once there is some forward momentum it is easy to picture the final product and push things forward. Continuous progress with great results are obtainable but not if you don’t start 🙂
Good luck on the book!
I love this post and it is sooo true! It can apply to other things, too, not just artwork. It kinda is in synch with an article I just posted. Check it out: http://blessingsfromabove2.blogspot.com/2008/08/dont-let-life-pass-you-by-make-it.html
By the way, are you going to BlogWorld in Las Vegas? I am going to be there. It will be a first for me! It would be nice to be meet you.
During August my wife and I took part in the Thirty Day Challenge, the most valuable aspect of which I found was in taking action each day. There wasn’t time to make things perfect or procrastinate. It is amazing what we achieved in such a short time.
ps. I’m still working on my vision board and having fun in the process 🙂
Great post. I like to move forward despite my flaws or lack of experience. I get great satisfaction from the idea of throwing up against the wall and seeing what sticks.
If you don’t do it somebody else will. I figure it might as well be me.
Keep cooking on the book.
Good post, Pam. I’ve suffered from perfectionism at times, and I have a couple of good friends who I’m afraid will always remain *would-be* artists rather than real ones precisely for the perfectionist reasons you suggest.
The same trait, by the way, is rife in the business world. We take aim forever rather than finding customers, figuring out how we can meet their needs, and then launching ahead with that, secure in the knowledge that every day will bring new chances to improve.
The antidote, in both cases: let ‘er rip! 🙂
Thank you, Pam. Incredibly timely reminder (which I got from your Twitter feed, btw). Just get it out there, I’m telling myself! Best, Pam
I have been scared to finish my book proposal – I only have the detailed table of contents to do and when I read, “Perfectionists are losers”, I realized that I am good enough (better than good enough) to put together a best selling book proposal.
Everyday I say, “Doubt my doubts” and I will be adding the PAL one!
So true Pam.
Funny how we humans think we’re alone in our misery so many times, without realizing that our feelings of insecurity, laziness…-whatever keeps us from getting over ourselves to complete what we started and achieve our goals- is just human nature. If we came to see these things as they are we’d be much more productive and complete more stuff.
I guess Seth Godin found the perfect expression: going through the Dip.
Me? With “Perfectionists are losers” in mind, I’ll set out to finish my online t-shirt store and give the world my small approach to the big picture on aspects like love and inspiration.
This is so true!
Perfectionists also feel like losers because completing their projects means letting go of them. This sense of loss is often hidden from view. Why not allow the completion of our projects to be enough of a gift for ourselves and others?
Hi Pam – I absolutely agree with you! However, even with semi-perfectionists, it’s sometimes so difficult trying to figure out when to launch a site or release a product because there is always room for improvement.