I’ve always been one to get really excited about an idea for a creative project, start it, and then procrastinate until I be all like, “Oh, uh, yeah, it’s a work in progress… I first need this and this and this and to get better at this and this and know everything there is to know about X, Y, Z, and all their extended relatives…”
I figured none of my projects could succeed unless I was ready to execute them PERFECTLY. So, of course, with that kind of ridiculous standard, I’d just end up dropping them altogether. (Which is really sad, because I’ve had some AWESOME ideas… I’m pretty sure I still have the bungee, scuba gear, and harness for my cat somewhere…)
They say “there’s always tomorrow.” Which is true… to a point. But if you’re simply putting off something until you’re 100% positive you’ll do it perfectly… yeeeeah, never gonna happen. Might as well unbutton those pants, stuff some strips of bacon in there to create a convenient little snack pocket (see?? I’m full of awesome ideas), and start bingeing Golden Girls now, because you KNOW that’s what you’ll end up doing anyway if you plan on being perfect. (Not that there’s anything wrong with doing that on any ole’ Friday night… Just sayin’.)
Guess what? Done is better than perfect. (Read that again.) Because even if you think of how you could have done it better afterwards, that’s still getting you something to start with and learn from. You’ll never learn how to do it better the second time if you spend too much energy on perfecting the first time.
I used to have the following thought processes for every aspect of my life:
I can’t make friends until I know I’m funny enough, smart enough, or interesting enough.
I can’t date anyone until I’ve mastered relationships.
I can’t be my badass self until I know for certain that people will see me that way.
I can’t invite anyone to my improv shows until I know I’m going to be good at it every single time.
I can’t be mindful until I’ve mastered mindfulness.
I can’t get better at managing my finances until I become rich.
I can’t go to therapy until I know how to express myself PERFECTLY.
I can’t try stand-up until I KNOW I’ll be funny.
I can’t make any decisions until I KNOW which is the right decision.
I can’t start a blog until I’ve mastered the art of writing.
I can’t use a urinal until I know I can perfect my aim.
(Ok, so the last one I made up. But you get the point.)
You’re never going to do anything you’ll be proud of if you always aim to be perfect. (However, perfect aim in the urinal is a must, GENTLEMEN.) So while you SHOULD be patient with yourself as you learn, giving yourself time to get better, remember this (it’s VERY IMPORTANT, so PAY ATTENTION and WRITE THIS DOWN. You too, KAREN):
Start failing TODAY. It’s the only way to start loving yourself.
Read that again.
It’s the only way to not only get better at whatever it is you’re trying to do, but it also builds your self-esteem when you get comfortable with failure and making mistakes. It’s actually quite a relief, when you think about it that way. Even people who are actually good at something have to fail now and then, and really, their naturalness has nothing to do with being “good,” but rather everything to do with how natural and comfortable they are at failing.
*Insert head explosion here… minus the messy blood, because I have OCD and I’ll spend weeks cleaning it up…*
NOW: it’s important to understand that when I say “start today,” I don’t mean that thinking “I’m gonna get rich TODAY” is going to work. The whole point of failure and mistakes is to find what NATURALLY works for you. The mere concept of getting rich isn’t natural for anybody (except maybe those born into it). The PATH to becoming rich, on the other hand, depends on your natural passions, what you work towards, and whether the approach you take works FOR YOU. It’s different for everyone. The only way to find out YOUR natural way is trial and error; not perfection.
It’s like dating. You gotta date a few boobs before you find one that naturally flops in sync with you. It takes a few failed relationships to find it. (Yes, sometimes people are lucky and marry their childhood sweethearts, but we’re not talking about that, STEVE.)
Now, if you’re like me, you might be worried that spending a whole lot of time failing is wasting your life away. (If not, and that didn’t even occur to you until I said it… you’re welcome.) But here’s the thing: as long as you’re failing with an open mind and acceptance that it’s all part of the process, you’re not wasting anything. You’re actually living.
However, there are some occasions when it’s time to let something go, rather than persisting and failing, over and over and over. Not because continuous failure itself is “bad,” but rather because you may have a different calling that God or the universe is trying to direct you towards.
When You Should Shift Gears and STOP Already
This is going to sound a lot easier said than done: If it’s just causing you misery, STOP IT.
NOW… This gets complicated because sometimes the things we’re most passionate about also cause us significant grief when we keep failing at them. It becomes discouraging, if we let it. But there are some things that, if you really just think about it, long and hard, you’ll notice that they either make you VERY happy, just to work at, even when you keep failing, or make you feel like you’re just hit a massive roadblock that causes you serious anxiety whenever you think about it.
So, for example, I used to think making wedding videos was my “calling.” I did a few, and while it was nice to make the families happy, and the videos were somewhat enjoyable to make, I didn’t feel passionate about it. When I had to do menial tasks, like putting the video on a DvD, instead of tolerating them for the sake of the bigger picture, I felt mentally drained and unmotivated. I was living a life of fake bacon.
Even when the finished product turned out great, I still felt unsatisfied. I eventually decided that, while making wedding videos was a fun hobby to get my creative juices flowing, it wasn’t my life calling. Once I let go of that idea, I felt a lot happier and a lot less frustrated.
It’s hard letting go of the pursuit of perfection. We don’t like the idea of failing, so we procrastinate with the belief that either we have to perfect whatever it is to death or that it’s not worth even trying to begin with. Don’t let yourself feel guilty about not being perfect. Your bacon (i.e. your unadulterated, truest self) is perfectly imperfect and constantly cooking. Actual bacon requires cooking to evolve into the deliciousness that we already know it is; your bacon is no different. So fail away, and start today!
Because really, the only true failure in life is not trying at all. (That, and also missing the toilet… Seriously, gentlemen…)