The first draft of anything is sh*t

Being a perfectionist is often hailed as an admirable trait to have, as if it somehow vouches for a continuous drive for excellence and a stamp of quality. In reality, it is a weakness in disguise. It hampers productivity for two reasons:

  1. You self-censor yourself

    Perfectionists often spend too much time criticising their own performance – when they could be churning out results, iteration after iteration. Just like the Sistine Chapel masterpieces were once rough sketches and outlines, we shouldn’t expect the first version of our work to be flawless. If we are overly focussed on achieving the perfect result, we won’t mentally give ourselves permission to work through a few rubbish variations before refining them to greatness. The title above is a quote from the great Ernest Hemingway, who himself understood the value of humble beginnings. We can learn a lot from adopting the mindset of the “draft” to many areas of our lives. Aren’t we all in fact, as people, the draft of a future version of ourselves?

  2. You don’t recognise “good enough”

    Perfectionists also struggle to let go when something is in fact very much fit for purpose. This is particularly true if your work entails producing written work or graphics but it can be seen on all levels of business where we simply don’t want something to leave our hands until it is absolutely perfect. This is of course not an issue if you have unlimited time and resource at your disposal, but most of us do still operate in a fast-paced world where we are measured on time as well as quality.
    Being a part-time artist, I sometimes find myself working on a piece of art long after it should have been declared “finished”. I always find little details that can be improved, things I’m not entirely happy with, things I suddenly decide I want to add or remove. Sometimes they do improve the end result, but most of the time I am just wasting my time as the edits don’t make any substantial impact on the final product.

The result of both of these behaviours can at best be a small nuisance, but can at worst drive you to the point of burnout – at which point you are of no use to anyone (from a business perspective, that is!). We should of course aim to produce our best work and maintain a solid high quality in what we do, but not at the cost of being perfect. Consider if it’s even possible to reach the standards you have set for yourself, with the means you have available. If it is, then do aim for it. If it isn’t, then do the best you can in the circumstances and accept it – and move on.

If any of this rings true to you, it could be useful for you to re-visit your approach to your own motivation. Why do you feel the need to be perfect? Whom are you working so hard to please? For many of us, there are latent issues from our early childhood conditioning which may need to be addressed. You may benefit from discussing this with a counsellor or a therapist.

But in the meantime, try challenging your own perfectionism, letting go at “good enough” – and see what happens!

What’s this PASSION thing and where do I get it?

This post is – really – about passion.
But I would like to anchor that topic in the term SUCCESS.

So – what is success? Well, many experts agree that success is based on two things: Your passion and your driving force.

  • Passion is about finding something you truly love in life, something you get really fired up about, and then striving to achieve excellence in that field.
  • The driving force is what motivates you to do this. For some, the driving force is about the money. For others, it’s recognition, or maybe family and relationships. Could be religion. It could even be a combination of all these things.

When it comes to passion, some of us will know from a very early age what our passion is, and work through the years to become successful at that. For others, it may change over time. And that doesn’t mean you abandon one passion for another – it just means you’re exploring new things. And sometimes those passions from your early life come back to you when you’re older.

I would like to share with you some stories from my own life, to highlight my journey and how I’ve discovered and re-discovered myself through life.

My story starts at the tender age of five. Imagine this: A little girl, hungry for attention and praise from her parents, grandparents, teachers, from the world. Doing all sorts of outrageous things to make people notice her. Dressing up, drawing on the wallpaper, climbing trees. You name it, I was doing it. But – then there is the older brother. Two years older, to be precise. So he starts school at seven, and quickly starts learning to read. And to write. And my whole world’s spotlight is turned to him. He gets praise, he gets attention. Everyone wants him to read the roadsigns and the newspaper headlines, and there I am in the background, quietly fuming and boiling with jealousy.
None of my pranks are outrageous enough any more. Reading and writing, that’s the thing now.

So what do I do? Well, this is a story my mother has told me so many times over the years, and I still think it’s hilarious. I took one of my brother’s books about the alphabet and hid myself away in my room, studying this book. Every now and then I would emerge, asking my Mum, ”what’s that letter?” and she’d say ”That’s a T.” and I’d go back to my room, come back out again after a few minutes and ask about the next letter. ”what’s that?” ”That’s a K.” and this would carry on for some time, until one day my Mum gets a phone call from the child minder, saying ”well done on teaching your daughter to read and write”. And my Mum was stunned. She hadn’t taught me. I had literally taught myself to read – Driven by the sheer energy of my own jealousy.
And boom – I was back in the spotlight. Loving it!

That was my earliest clue to both my passion and my driving force. As soon as I could form words on paper, I was writing stories. Usually accompanied by drawings and sketches. I was dreaming of becoming a writer, illustrating my own books. To me, as a child, that would be the dream job.

As I got older, the dream of becoming a writer was still there, but it started giving way to other career dreams and ambitions. I started nurturing the dream of becoming a missionary. I ended up travelling across the former Soviet union – the Kola peninsula, Belarus, St Petersburg. It was an exciting time in my life, I felt as if I had a true purpose.

But again, as I got older, my life priorities were changing. I started dreaming of a normal career, a real job. And I discovered marketing – although I didn’t quite know that it was called marketing then. I just wanted to work with communication in different ways. I slowly learnt the trade and became a qualified marketing professional, and I have now been active in marketing for over a decade.

But it wasn’t until a year ago that I felt that the last piece of the puzzle really fell into place. I was in what I can only describe as a dead end job. I was stressed, frustrated, unhappy and unappreciated. And I remember coming home one night, completely drained. And I suddenly had this urge to create something. And I remembered I’d bought this canvas board in the pound shop, and it had just ended up in a cupboard with a box of acrylic paint. So I set it up, I started painting and all of a sudden, time and space was gone. It was just me and the painting. And I painted through until after midnight, and had created something I didn’t know I could do. I hadn’t painted for many many years, but now I realised that I was actually re-connecting with a very deeply rooted passion in me. And the joy I got from creating this little piece and sharing it with friends and family was just priceless.

So – for me, it’s only now I am starting to feel truly successful. Because I have something that extends outside of the day job into a creative fantasy world where I get to work with colours and shapes, to go alongside the text and the content I work with 9-5.

But what I would like to do – to finish off here – is to I encourage YOU to explore what passions and driving forces there might be inside you, try to recreate those childhood moments that once excited you. And to boldly ask yourself the question: Am I living a successful life?

Good luck on your journey!