While growing up I had a bunch of different collections of random items from rocks to football cards to coins. I remember taking all of my football cards out and organizing them first by team then by best players within the team. Then a couple weeks later I’d alphabetize them. And the next week it’d be a new organization. This habit of collecting things and organizing them has lived on with me. Now instead of football cards it’s shoes, and sentimental items. For example I attended a Boise State football game 2 years ago when they won the Mountain West championship we rushed the field (I jumped the fence and tore my pants but that’s another story) with streamers and confetti coming down. I caught a piece of a streamer, pocketed it and it’s now hanging in my man corner (like a man cave, but smaller). I also have a lot of ticket stubs/mementos from when Sarah and I were first dating. Ya know, it’s probably more so considered hoarding, not collecting anymore haha. But that habit of collecting things and organizing them has stuck with me.
I think I just really enjoy order, I’m probably ocd, I like having a perfectly tidy work desk. If a pen isn’t straight with the other pens I’ll straighten it. This has crept into my professional life as well. When I was working at CarMax I used to walk around and straighten all the chairs when I had free time. Ya know in a job interview when they ask what’s your weakness and you say with a smug little smile “I’m a bit of a perfectionist so it can take me longer to get work done” well that’s me. With the work I do now in editing videos, I will spend minutes and hours working on one seemingly insignificant detail that it takes quite a bit longer for one project to be finished. For example I enjoy a good outro clip which most people don’t see anyways, but I always spend so much time making these small adjustments, thinking to myself “Someone will appreciate this,” or “if I just spend the time doing it now I’ll be able to do it faster later.” Leonardo da Vinci said “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
After recognizing my “problem” I set out to improve myself. I’ve read articles and blogs, listened to audiobooks and podcasts about how to improve my perfectionist habits. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from these different sources: Grant Cardone “Persist and you’ll later see that what you thought was perfect was not,” “Perfectionism isn’t perfect, it’s procrastination.” And one of my favorites from GC “don’t try to be perfect, let God be perfect.” From Preston Kanak “I would always tell myself and others that the last piece of work you produce should be the best thing you produce and although I believed it at the time, that was an incredibly unhealthy way to look at things.”
I’ve learned that understanding this is the difference between success and obscurity. Your creative heroes were not perfectionists. Get your work out there for the world to see. I believe we all have a bit of that perfectionist in us, but if we persist and put out consistent quality the market will reward us. It does not reward perfectionism.
A few steps that you can take to overcome perfectionism are:
- Timelines: set a timeline when something has to be done. Think through how long it SHOULD take you to finish without your perfectionist tendencies. Then hold yourself to that timeline!!
- Hypothesis Testing: Or strategically not doing your best (on small items that is). For example send the email before proofreading it, buy that dog toy off amazon without reading 50 reviews of it and every other dog toy out there. Did it turn out as bad as you thought? Think about how much time you just gained!
- Expose yourself: Try new things, get out of your comfort zone. If you make a mistake was it really as bad as you thought it would be? Nothing that bad is really going to happen. “Exposure therapy” for perfectionism is seeing that even if mistakes are made, the consequences probably aren’t as bad as you might have thought they’d be. Keep doing this until you’ve relaxed your perfect standards a bit.
Give the above a try. Have fun with it. I mean have you ever sent an email to a professor or boss without proofreading it?! It’s intense. In my experience it doesn’t matter, cause they’ll hit you with a “k” anyways!
PS. I didn’t proofread this blog. Maybe the earth will explode, we’ll see..