Don’t Wait for Perfect: Being Okay with Okay (For Now)
Scott D. Clary | Mental Models, Performance, Business & Entrepreneurship
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Don’t Wait for Perfect: Being Okay with Okay (For Now)
Over my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with and talking to a ton of successful people.
By the time I sit down with them, they’re usually already in a good place. Rivers of revenue, a rock-solid team running the day-to-day, and enough spare time to spend some of it answering my questions – instead of figuring out how to put food on the table.
You might expect them to have rehearsed their origin story, shining it up to sound like a rags-to-riches Broadway musical. But in my experience, this isn’t really the case.
The leaders in most industries didn’t wake up one day with a perfect product destined for greatness. They just had the guts to try something and the smarts to learn from it after the inevitable initial collapse.
For a lot of people, there is a hesitation to try anything at all. “Oh, that’ll never work.” “How would I even get started?” “I don’t know enough about _____!” Well, you know who I don’t interview? Someone who never even tried.
This week’s newsletter is going to be all about embracing imperfection. Being satisfied with just okay, at least in the right situation.
The Myth of Perfection
We know that perfection isn’t real. You can never attain it, and it certainly shouldn’t hold you back. But if we know logically that perfection is well out of reach, why do we hold ourselves to it?
The concept has become the enemy of innovation, holding back anxious inventors and entrepreneurs. Criticism is scary – and financial failure even more so. But that anxiety is assuaged during the refinement process, to the point where it may not ever end.
Let’s make it clear: Mark Zuckerberg didn’t create the $500 billion market cap of Meta (Facebook) on his college dorm room window, despite what it may seem like after watching The Social Network.
The entrepreneurial advice to take from that movie – other than simply, don’t be a jerk – is that all of his success can be traced back to having the courage to release something. Have an idea, and put it out there; don’t wait for it to mature and evolve, that comes later.
Perfectionism as a Roadblock
In pursuing flawlessness, we very quickly become paralyzed, unable to take the necessary risks and make the leaps that lead to growth and innovation.
Here’s how it might manifest for you:
Analysis paralysis – Overthinking every decision and constantly seeking more information can lead to inaction. Perfectionists may be stuck in a loop, never confident enough to make a move.
Missed opportunities – While waiting for the perfect moment or product, competitors may seize the opportunity to launch their imperfect versions, gaining market share and leaving you in the dust.
Burnout and stress – The constant pressure to achieve perfection can significantly affect mental health, leading to burnout and decreased productivity.
Stifled creativity – Aiming for perfection can discourage experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking. Employees may be afraid to share unpolished ideas or take risks, leading to a lack of innovation.
I’m a firm believer that it's better to take action and learn from your mistakes than to be immobilized by the fear of imperfection.
The Power of Vulnerability and Authenticity
Brené Brown’s landmark TED Talk in 2010 on the power of vulnerability is something I come back to occasionally (the 61 million views suggest it’s the same for others). In it, she explores the idea of imperfection and how those that embrace it can start to overcome the shame and vulnerability they feel.
But it’s one line that always strikes me. Brown gives us the original definition of courage.
“To tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
This idea is so powerful when applied to business. It is presenting your authentic and imperfect self, ideas, or products to the world, knowing they may – no, they will – be judged or criticized.
Instead of hiding behind a facade of perfection, vulnerability and authenticity allow you to connect genuinely with your audience, customers, or investors.
The Benefits of Embracing Mistakes
Recognizing that mistakes are an essential part of the growth process can help you reap the rewards of learning and adapting to new challenges. Let’s explore the benefits of embracing imperfection in business and personal life.
Mistakes, failures, and setbacks are all valuable learning experiences that can accelerate your progress if you're willing to embrace them. When you analyze what went wrong, you gain crucial insights that enable you to improve and avoid similar pitfalls in the future.
This iterative process of learning from your mistakes leads to continuous personal and professional growth and development.
Innovation often stems from trial and error and the willingness to take risks. By accepting imperfection, you create an environment where creativity can flourish and encourage a mindset that fosters experimentation.
This can lead to groundbreaking ideas, products, or services that might have remained unexplored due to fear of failure.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and continue pushing forward despite adversity. Like a turtle shell hardened to protect it from the hot sun and sharp predator beaks, learning from mistakes helps build mental fortitude as you become more comfortable with the idea of failure and less afraid of the unknown.
How to Embrace Failure and Learn From It
We've all been there – things don't go as planned, and we're left feeling deflated. But instead of dwelling on the setback, let's talk about embracing failure and turning it into a powerful learning experience.
Changing Perspective: It's Not a Defeat, It's a Lesson
First things first, we need to shift our mindset. Instead of viewing failures as the end of the world, let's see them as valuable lessons that help us grow.
Remember, nobody's perfect, and every great success story has its fair share of bumps along the road. So, the next time you face a setback, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it's just another opportunity to learn and improve.
Post-Mortem Analysis: The Autopsy of Failure
Now that we've got the right mindset, it's time to get down to business and dissect our failures. A post-mortem analysis involves taking an honest look at what went wrong, why it happened, and what can be done to avoid making the same mistake again.
Don't be afraid to ask yourself tough questions; be brutally honest with your answers. This process might be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.
Feedback Loops: Continuous Improvement through Collaboration
Lastly, let's not forget the importance of feedback from others. Whether it's from colleagues, customers, or mentors, external input can provide valuable insights that you might have missed.
Create a feedback loop by actively seeking opinions and advice, then use this information to iterate and improve your approach.
Launching with Confidence: Embracing the Power of Imperfect Products
So, you're ready to take the plunge and launch your not-so-perfect product or service. Trust me, it's a good thing! It's all part of the innovation process. Let's dive into some strategies to help you feel more confident about releasing your creation into the wild.
Keeping It Lean and Mean
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a stripped-down version of your product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters and gather valuable feedback. It's like a sneak peek that allows you to test the waters without investing too much time and resources.
Plus, it's a fantastic way to learn more about your audience and refine your offering based on real-world input.
Real Feedback, Real Results
User testing is your secret weapon in the battle for product success. By getting your MVP into the hands of real users, you'll gain invaluable insights into what works and what doesn't. This feedback will help you iterate and improve your product, ensuring that you're on the right track and meeting your audience's needs.
The Pivot-Persevere Matrix
The Pivot-Persevere Matrix is a simple tool I came up with to help decide whether it's time to change course (pivot) or keep pushing forward (persevere) with your current product strategy.
Here's how it works:
High Engagement + Positive Feedback: You're on the right track! Keep pushing forward and refining your product based on user feedback.
High Engagement + Negative Feedback: Your users are engaged, but something's not quite right. Take a closer look at the feedback and consider pivoting to address the issues raised.
Low Engagement + Positive Feedback: Users like your product, but engagement is low. Evaluate your offering and iterate to boost interest and engagement.
Low Engagement + Negative Feedback: It's time to pivot. Reassess your product's core value proposition and explore new directions based on user feedback and market research.
There is obviously nuance to every decision, but this will give you a good baseline to start evaluating your features to see if they should stay or go.
I could roll out any number of cliches or inspiring quotes to wrap this up. But you’ve heard them all before. Luck is the meeting of opportunity and preparation, don’t settle for average, aim for the moon and land among the stars.
But so often, these lead people to think they need to build a grand plan before trying anything. It’s really a lot simpler than that.
In the inimitable words of Shia LaBeouf: “JUST DO IT!”
Try things. Make mistakes. Break stuff. Embrace the okay, as long as it gets you started. You aren’t ever going to be perfect, so don’t wait around for it to happen.
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