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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.