I’m not a big fan of “hindsight” thinking – the kind where you lament that “if only you knew then what you know now…”
And knowing full well that retrospection without the assistance of a Tardis is a futile exercise, I prefer not to think about things I “would change if I could”.
But this month’s Carnival topic asked me to travel back in time to the beginning of my business to give my young(er)-newbie-starry-eyed-entrepreneur-self a bit of advice.
One bit of advice to be exact.
It’s not an easy exercise! Try it… imagine telling your new-business-self one thing… the most important thing you could possibly tell yourself. The one that would make a difference.
If you’re like me, you may start cataloging your mistakes in an attempt to unearth the most egregious. Or track backwards through your failures to find the source. Dig up the biggest “should have” in your back story.
Have you come up with your own bit of advice yet? When you’re done reading, I’d love to know what you came up with so share it with me in the comments.
In the meantime, here’s mine. It’s one that I think a lot of people struggle with (I’ve talked to plenty who have!) and one that, instead of being a hopeless look back at my dumber self, can serve as good advice today and forever:
It’s Not About Being Perfect
Perfectionism is defined as being displeased with anything that doesn’t meet high standards.
That actually sounds like a good thing.
But the definition doesn’t include the fear, the doubts, the paralysis that keeps you from doing something because it might be less than perfect.
I’m all for high standards! If every business set high standards for their products, services and customer support, the world would be a better place.
But perfect is not the same as high. And perfect is a fiction.
My young entrepreneurial self spent hours creating an invoice template because the address line and service line and decimal point had to be just-so.
My young entrepreneurial self waited days to call a client because I had to practice my pitch until the nouns and tone of my voice were flawless.
My young entrepreneurial self avoided meetings (my pants were all wrong!) and delayed putting together marketing materials (I was too inexperienced!) and sidestepped jobs that required new skills (I’d never be any good!)
Then as now, the advice to “do something” is priceless. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to quit obsessing, quit trying to get everything perfect and just do something.
So listen up, young-entrepreneurial-newbies – and old dogs, too, because you can learn new tricks (take it from a mutt like me) – nothing is perfect. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be.
Do something, because something imperfect is better than nothing at all.
It’s Not About Being Right
Lots of people read this blog because they want to learn how to do something the right way. They flock to our posts about how to set up a Facebook page and how to engage Twitter followers. They want to know how to make their websites mobile-friendly and how to improve their SEO.
We want the instruction manual.
And there is no shortage of advice! There are blogs and books, webinars and courses, and they all claim to tell us how to do something. More importantly, how to do it right.
But the reality is that (brace for it) there is no such thing as right. There are good ideas. There are best practices. There are things that work. And all of it depends on your business, your goals, your marketing.
My young entrepreneurial self was constantly on the hunt for the right way. I bought books by the dozens. Attended conferences and seminars and took courses. I waited to finish writing our company website, put off printing our brochures. I asked for second and third and fourth opinions. It took forever to get anything done.
My older self recognizes the reality but it can still take me forever to get anything done unless I stop and remind myself to do something. My older self also recognizes that I’ll never get to “right” until I step into and over a whole lot of wrong.
Do something, because you may get it wrong but you’ll never get it right unless you do.
Do It Now
Right or wrong, good or “good enough”, you can’t move, learn or grow unless you act.
If you knew more you might be able to do it smarter.
With a little more time and planning you might be able to do it better.
But waiting for the best plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll come up with it.
And waiting for the perfect time doesn’t mean there will be one.
The only thing you have is now, so this is your chance to act.
If I could tell my young entrepreneurial self – or you – or anyone – one thing that will really make a difference in business it’s just that simple.
Whatever you’re not doing because you’re waiting to get it perfect/right/just-so, it’s time to do it. Your biggest enemy isn’t time or money or knowledge (or lack of it). It’s the word later.
Because “something” will get you a lot closer to where you want to be than “someday”.
Have you thought of your own bit of personal advice yet? How about something you’re not doing because you’re waiting for later? Share your thoughts in the comments!
This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival series of posts. This month, our carnies are exploring the theme of Time Travel, specifically: from where you are now, what one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself on your first day in business? Check out more of the Word Carnival series at WordCarnivals.com.
Join the discussion 28 Comments
You’re tap dancing on my stage now, Carol Lynn! 😉
As a recovering perfectionist, the word, “later”, has been my best buddy for a very long time. I am perpetually reminding myself “some day” is not a day on the calendar. And good enough is … well … doggone good enough!
I’m a gal who doesn’t really care to look backward. I’m with you — not a big fan of hindsight thinking. Because everyone knows hindsight is 20/20, right? So what’s the point? After all, Carol Lynn, all the yesterdays are cancelled checks.
But for the sake of this month’s word carnival, thank you for doing a little time traveling and encouraging everyone (not just newbie entrepreneurs) to simply “do something”.
Exemplary advice and awesome post! 🙂
I’m always going to get that thing done better tomorrow… you know, after I figure it out some more. Later. Better to be “good enough” than nothing at all.
Ha! I won’t mention a certain bio that needed to be written, but YES, INDEED this advice is so true. Searching for the perfect right answer to anything should never be the first order of business (or the second, third, etc.). It’s so funny how all of us seem to struggle with this to some degree or another. Thanks for the reminder that we’ll get to where we want to go a lot quicker if we just stick that foot out and take a step forward.
oooooo never mention the bio again! It certainly wasn’t for lack of doing! It was done and redone so many times I’m surprised it came out as a bio and not as a top hat or something. Maybe in my next post I’ll write about that SECOND step.
Yes – the 2nd step. To take it, or not to take it. That is the question. Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to sufferThe Slings and Arrows of outrageous re-writes,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of Self-doubts,
And by opposing end them: to move on and procrastinate
No more; and by moving on, to say we end
The Heart-ache of missing that effing deadline…
Serious lol. You can include that on your poster. I’ll take three 🙂
Love it, Carol Lynn. We so often fall into the “right way” trap. I am a real player on that field. For myself and my clients I now think “best way” not right way because the best way forward for me may not be for you and visa versa. The do something really resonates with me — A biz coach I know often says ” when you’re not sure what do to, just do the next thing.” Powerful post!
Absolutely! There is only the best way… for YOU. Love your biz coach’s advice. Just get off center and you’re bound to go somewhere!
Yes, yes, yes! I’ve had some of those discussions with myself too – it’s far better to jump in and try things because usually there’s a limit to how badly you can mess up. My backup plan is to have a business friend on call to provide advice if I need it.
Oh Sharon, my messups have no limit, lol….
Seriously, I agree. I’m an overthinker and overachiever and I can get stuck at zero for a long time. Try and fail. But try!
Carol Lynn we sisters from another mother. I could have written this post (but ya know I was still fussing over the commas).
Oh, the comma use! Alas I fear I use them too much. And that’s after I deleted half of them. Well, we did say there’s no such thing as perfection…. I can’t be great at everything 🙂
Ack! This quote makes me giddy “Because “something” will get you a lot closer to where you want to be than “someday”.”
And that’s all I have to say. Great post!
Good enough! 🙂 Glad you liked it.
Oh boooooy, I can relate to this post over and again. I think the more you practice just getting it done, the less time everything will take, and the more you’ll (eventually) produce. Like an enormous productivity snowball. Better quality, less time…over time.
Why am I here, I’ve got shit ta do! 😉 Just kidding, I love being here.
I don’t think you can ever have enough practice! It’s a lifelong war between someday and now. The good news is we have plenty of opportunity to practice!
Thanks carol Lynn. This is something I’ve struggled with in the past. Spending hour and hour on something trying to get it “Perfect”. I believe we learn and grow the most when we get things wrong. Not to say that we shouldn’t be careful and put an effort into getting thing right, but we need to relaise that getting things wrong isn’t the end of the world. It’s what you learn and how you react that matter most!
I agree with your point – we have to try our best but that’s not the same as perfect. Sometimes we have to let go a little and just get something done. Try it out. Get better. And it’s definitely all about our response! If we can learn and keep going, that’s the best path to success.
There is so much information out there and things change light light speed. If we wait until everything is pin perfect, we will just be lolly-gagging! Do Something is the best advice.
All of my sites need work..I know this, but I keep putting things out there and working on my number one goal. That’s the most important thing! Sure my Facebook page needed work for a year now, but I didn’t get around to it. No biggie…people still come.
I blog once or twice a week – that’s all I have time for. I put my message out the best I can. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it is the best I can do.
Do Something is the best advice for all of us.
Thanks so much
Donna, I’m pretty sure of all the people I know YOU are the most likely to keep moving forward 🙂 You don’t let grass grow under your feet! There is always room for improvement, If we get to a point where we feel like we’re “done” then we’re just not looking hard enough.
Hi Carol. It seemed like you were writing about me! Great article. Your
article also reminded me of a great book called The E Myth by Michael Gerber. In
this book the author talks about why small businesses so often fail. And a lot
of it is because a ‘technician’ aka a perfectionist-type, highly skilled person
gets sick of the constraints of management at their day job, and quit to start
their own business… a business where they can call the shots, and they can do the work
the way they want, properly that is, and to their high standards, the way it should be. And the
perfectionism becomes a barrier to the technician building a profitable
business. (FYI, I have no affiliation with the author, just found the book very
Interesting thought… I can totally see the point. Why do we start businesses anyway? Part of it is to be better and do things better than what we’ve seen others do. Certainly we want to stand out. And that can lead to a whole lot of perfectionism. That one line… that we want to do things “the way they should be”… that’s where the problem comes in. What “should” they be? There are no rules, and so we spin our gears trying to reach a fantasy standard. Sounds like an interesting book!
I’m glad to be back here. It seems like a long time, but I’m coming back to normal blog commenting slowly, but surely.
I think that my worse mistake was to be too much all over the place trying to do everything “wrong” instead of learn one thing really well and then concentrating on doing just that.
I think that this was the thing that prevented me to be successful for the longest time. I was too little in too many places. A mess 🙂
Hi Sylviane, glad you’re back! You made a great point. Sometimes when you’re just starting out you really want to do everything. Especially if you’re dealing one-on-one with clients, you think you can be everything and do everything they need. After a while you realize that’s not the case. Even in our business, we have trimmed our services over the years and cut a lot out that we decided was just too much, so we can focus on things that we can be good at. Definitely a learning experience!
Another great post! I remember when I first started my eBay business someone told me that if I waited until everything was perfect I would never get anything listed. I still catch myself over-thinking things sometimes, but at least now I feel that I’m moving forward.
Sounds like you got some good advice! Sometimes being aware of your tendency to over-think is half the battle.
My favorite boss used to say, “Action Precedes Clarity”. Since then it’s been an imperative – my favorite call to action. When I feel stuck, when my wheels are spinning, when I don’t know what I want to do next, I just start putting things on the white board. As soon as I’ve done that, the path becomes clear!
The trick for me has always been not to start too many things at once and never finishing ’em.
I hear you on not starting too many things…. I’m a pretty linear person. I like to start something and finish it without other stuff in the middle. I know that’s not totally practical but if I can help it, I try to stay on track. And writing it all out – whiteboard, notepad, whatever – is priceless!