When you shouldn’t give 100%

We’re taught that practice makes perfect. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Give 110%.

I was a straight A student in high-school. I remember being devastated when I got my first B ever (Geometry) and I was brought to tears in college when I got the first C of my life (Microeconomics). Even when I got an A minus, I was a bit miffed. I’m not sure what I thought: did I really think anything less than an A-plus was a complete and utter failure on my part? Did I think it meant I hadn’t mastered or learned the content?

Math was especially challenging for me. I was more of a vocabulary and English gal. But I was good at memorization so many of my math classes were about nailing down the formula and replicating it – even if I didn’t understand the theory or reasoning behind it. Not the best way to learn, is it?

Sometimes that goal of perfection – of the A-plus – can hurt us. If we are such perfectionists, we may never get our newsletters out each month, or write that novel, or take a chance on that new business pitch. We may never launch that website. Waiting for perfection is an impossible task, since perfection is never possible. And that means you’ll spend your life and career planning to do things rather than making them happen.

There is a reason software companies release new versions every year. Version 1.0 is never going to be as good as 5.0 or even 10.0. They roll out something that is mostly complete, learn from their mistakes, and gather feedback, tweak and refine. Rinse. Repeat. If companies had not failed when trying to introduce tablets in the past, the iPad may never have been so successful now. If that first brick of a cell phone had never seen the market until it was “perfect”, we’d never have had generations of phones leading up the sleek, small, powerful smart phones of today.

Seth Godin always talks about the importance of shipping. Strategy and planning is vital, don’t get me wrong. But at some point, you have to tell the inner perfectionist to shut the hell up and ship your product, launch your website, open your shop or start your consulting practice.

You’ll learn. You’ll get feedback. And you’ll evolve. Recently, I spoke at the New York Times Small Business Summit on a panel called Evolve Your Brand. We spoke about the fact that, while a brand should stay true to its core values and mission, it can and should evolve. The world changes too fast for you to ever keep up with some mythical perfection standard built on shifting sands. It changes by the second.

So are you going to wait and wait and wait for 100% perfection before you do anything – and be the best-intentioned business or person who never accomplished a thing? Or are you going to put in the strategy work, get to a solid 80% and push those efforts out the door so you can keep on going, keep on improving and keep on innovating?

Doers DO. It really is that simple.

If you want to stop spinning your wheels and make your brand irresistible, ensure your messaging is clear and attract more clients or customers, then stop the excuses of being too busy and get into shape at my next Branding Bootcamp!

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