You want to tackle that blog post on that one topic, but you’re not an expert.
You want to create that eBook but everyone else has already written an eBook and they’ve done it better than you.
You want to reach out to an influencer with the hopes of collaborating, but they’ve never heard of you.
You want to take a short course in a topic you know will be useful, but it looks overwhelming.
You want to create a course for your audience but where do you even start? And you’ve hardly got time for your work as it is, how would you ever fit this in?
We have so many dreams, and twice as many things holding us back.
Can you imagine, though, if everyone who ever created anything waited until they were an expert to do so? Half of the things we have today wouldn’t exist. This is why there’s so many iPhones. Steve Jobs didn’t just release this bad boy in 2007 then sit down and go “ok, that’s done” – Apple keeps revising, innovating, improving, but letting you still have earlier versions that plenty of people are plenty satisfied with.
You can do the same. You can get out a version that’s done but not perfect, and keep upgrading as you go. And that right there is the mantra you need to remember, the five words pasted on the wall of Facebook Headquarters, the battle cry of the young and the hungry: Done is Better than Perfect.
We all know if you wait for perfection, you’ll never get finished. Or if you do ever finish, you’re too late and the trend has passed, your knowledge is obsolete, or there is no consumer demand for your product any more. Or worse – someone else did it and they were successful and theirs wasn’t even as good as yours.
Seth Godin is famous for a lot of things, but one thing comes up time and time again among you and me and the people in our industry is the catchcry: ship it. It’s his version of “done is better than perfect” – just get the thing out there. Just ship your product already, whether that’s a physical product, your eBook, your blog post, it doesn’t matter. Get your creation in the hands of the people.
So what is holding you back? Why are you waiting for perfection? Is it fear? Are you afraid of being criticised? Are you afraid of selling a sub-par item, or even one that is good but not your best work? What will people say? Will they be disappointed they spent their time or money on you? And tell you that?
Darren recently published a podcast about the three questions you can ask yourself when you’re afraid, if that’s your roadblock. Is it the quest for perfection that’s stalling your creativity? Is it the fear of getting into the big leagues? Is it what people might say about you? You really need to recognise the roadblocks so you can minimise or eliminate them.
One of the best things you can do is sit down and write out what it is that’s holding you back. Setting it all down on paper really helps you see what it is you’re afraid of (especially if you haven’t quite articulated it yet), and give you some perspective about how you can tackle these issues so you can just ship.
Then there’s that whole thing about overwhelm, and how it holds us back from even starting on our project. Yes we want to write an eBook, but man, what a giant job! You can no longer bang out a few sentences in Word, put a cover on it, convert to PDF and chuck it up on your site (or can you?!) – there’s a multitude of things you have to consider. Huge things, things that will potentially decide whether you succeed or fail, things that need attention and decisions and actual work to bring to life.
So just start. Before you can just ship, or just do, you have to just start [tweet that!]. Open a new document and type some title ideas, maybe your first sentence, a link to someone’s blog you want to interview, a colour scheme – anything that begins your journey. You may very well leave it untouched for the next six months, but you’ve made a small start. You’re well on your way to getting it done, and then you can think about making it perfect. Later.
Every time you can, take the next step on the road to getting it done. Pick an image editing program you will use. Find or take a great cover photo. Decide on a font. Write a chapter. Send an email… just keep moving. Before you know it, all these baby steps will add up to a product that is done.
Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, in his book The Start-up of You, sums this up perfectly:
‘Oh, I want to do it completely behind a cloak and then [remove] the cloak and everyone knows how wonderful and what a genius I am cause they think the product is so wonderful.’ That’s actually rarely the winning strategy. The actual winning strategy is ‘I’m moving, I’m getting out there and I’m adapting at a fast rate.’
You’re missing out
Hoffman also said this golden piece of advice that helps all of us remember everyone is in the same boat – or they were, before they were successful:
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Just get it done. And when it embarrasses you, do it better.
What are you waiting to do? What is one step you can take to get it done?
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.
I have failed thousands of time. Which is why I blog from paradise. I feel all flows ahead perfectly; our judgment makes us fear shipping, trying to get it all right. Life is one big experiment, all happening from a perfect, inspired, awesome space. Do not fear. Ship. Publish. Relax. Allow inspiration to find you. Act on that inspiration. I ship a bunch; have deleted 3400 posts and have deleted 2500 videos and here I am; still f*cking up daily here and there, still fearing failure but still shipping and STILL living in paradise as a pro blogger. Loving this Stacey :)
Hahah long live the daily f*ckup, amirite?!
Wow!! Your delete-rate is impressive. Thanks for sharing, makes me feel better about all the deleting I’ve been doing lately, ha! :)
My philosophy is that perfectionism kills more business than just about anything.
Publish your first draft! :D
If you add some breathtaking revelations at a later time; that’s what version 2.0 (and 3.0) is for!
Wishing you the best
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Love it! I AM doing it but sometimes scare myself because it’s going so fast. Thanks for yhe reassurance!
Oh yes, fast can be fun but also totally frightening :)
This post made a huge impact! Sometimes as creatives we attempt perfection and fail miserably. I like to pride myself on having tiny matters of faith…this gets me through my worst and keeps my going and sane!
I like to aim high but also be realistic. Sounds like you do too!
The Five Words You Need to Hear When You Feel Like You’re Not Good Enough
great title, i am doing these sometimes, i believe that failing many times makes you even more stronger to enjoy the rejoice of victory.
I agree :)
Great stuff Darren, Thanks for sharing
How uncanny, I’ve been reading and studying blogging, copyrighting, my niche, etc. non-stop for about a month. Listen to problogger podcast, yet this is my first blog post to read.
You’ve nailed all my feelings and fears, advice I will heed!
I’ll be back!
Thanks a bunch!!
Glad to hear it, Melinda! How good is the podcast! Let me know if there’s anything else we can help with and remember – just do it!
Perfect timing. I was just looking at some of the first patterns I wrote back in 2011, and they are bad. Really bad. And I am embarrassed by them, but I am also motivated to dust them off, give them an update and send them out for another whirl. Great article. Thanks!
Oy, I hear ya! Sometimes when I look back at my iPhone photos of food from 5 years ago, I wonder how I ever got anywhere, haha
So much true in here. And every section here relates directly to the discussions I have with my clients and other writers on an almost daily basis.
I work with mostly creative writers, but there the intersection between writing as a creative endeavor and writing as a business is so important. And so many writers falter when trying to bridge that gap. I’m always looking for posts, books and tools that support people as they make that transition.
Even though I work with people daily in learning how to finally finish and push their writing into the world, Fear is a many tendrilled thing, and as we grow in our writing, blogging and product development, we will constantly push our own boundaries. That’s why it’s so important to have this as a reminder.
(A reminder that I need as much as anyone.)
Thank you for this and also for all the fantastic resources and reading within. Going to share it now!
Thanks so much for sharing, Leigh! There is a difference between writing as a creative endeavour and writing with a business end-point in mind. It can also give your confidence a knock if you previously were pretty good and now this industry isn’t as easy to crack.
I love this saying. I say it at work all the time (and I don’t work at facebook).
I say it when I’m cleaning the bathroom!
One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. I, too, have been ignoring my half-written ebook and ecourse. Thank you, thank you, thank you :D
haha, ignore no longer!
So true…Done is better than perfect. I do believe that failing makes you stronger.
It sure does :)
My main issue is not that I can’t get things done, the main thing that drives my consistent self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough, is that as a freelance photographer I don’t make enough money to help out with our family finances like I would like to. I feel that because not enough people buy my photographs, I must be doing something wrong.