Perfection Paralysis

Reading Permission to Suck by David Kadavy inspired me to stop caring about appearing perfect and start allowing myself to just wing it sometimes.

The last time I published a post to my personal blog was over a year ago. I said at the beginning of 2015 I was going to write more. I really wanted to, but I also wanted every post to be just perfect.

When I started high school I learned how to hack video game consoles. I’m not sure if the challenge interested me, or if I was just interested in fighting ‘the man’ who dictated which games I could play and how I had to play them.

I learned about this skill-set from a reference to an online forum in some gaming magazine. The forum was magical and full of other misfits who shared my passion. While on the forum, something strange and totally unrelated to console hacking caught my eye.

Under every post, there was a little signature picture about 400px wide, and 150px tall. These signatures were artistic, unique, beautiful, and made whatever it’s owner said appear professional as hell.

I needed to have one, so I tried my hand at photoshop. It sucked.

In fact, the next 100 or so images I had crafted (and showed off) in Photoshop sucked. Day after day I’d keep crafting signatures, slowly learning different techniques along the way.

After a few months of constantly making these signatures in Photoshop and sharing them with strangers, I got good. I got damn good. I even began writing tutorials, giving advice, and making works of art for fans as well.

At 15 years old I perfected a skill by putting myself and my work out there without worrying about appearing perfect from the start or worrying what people might think of me. In return I got the feedback, advice, and encouragement that pushed me to be better.

All that seemed to change when I started applying for college. Guidance councilors, parents, and teachers all began stressing the importance of appearing a certain way to colleges.

It became important to have everything polished and obviously unnatural. At the age of 17, I needed four adults to puff up my resume and make a full page out of a couple school awards and working summers painting for my Uncle’s residential painting company.

I had to respond to questions in my applications a certain way. Make sure my Facebook couldn’t be misinterpreted, select the right safe words for my résumé, build a LinkedIn profile, and more. If I had any flaw, it had to be hidden or spun into a strength.

After I was accepted into college, this perfection aspiration got worse.

Pressure to take the right courses didn’t come from creating a unique individual, but rather from needing to create a clean and impressive transcript for grad school or the workforce.

As you can imagine, this mentality continued in Graduate School, and then exponentially as a young 20-something tries to fit into the “adult”-world.

I think if you continue to spend your life fitting other people’s expectations of you, you leave no room to surprise them.

I worry if I keep subscribing to this mentality, I won’t give myself the slack and room to grow.

As I type this, there are about eighteen different blog posts I’ve written and haven’t published.

I spent a lot of time on them. I’ve tried to clear my head and make them perfect. I’ve thought through my point of view and compared it to others. I’ve explained why I, or anyone else, should even care. What I didn’t do, was hit “publish”.

I’ve worried that being exposed as wrong in the slightest bit would discredit the rest of my ideas or work. In the process of becoming an adult, the pursuit of appearing perfect has held me back from appearing at all.

If some of my favorite businesses or individuals worried about appearing perfect by other’s standards, they simply wouldn’t be my favorite businesses.

Businesses that embrace their constraints (their competitors and the naive may call them flaws) can use them to become unique and memorable.

I couldn’t imagine Chipotle without their industrial interior design, Basecamp without their anti-tech-startup attitude, or Southwest without their free-for-all seat selection. These are the qualities that make me reach for my wallet, recommend them to my friends, and become their biggest fan.

As I build my business I need to be less worried about what people think of it, and give it the chance to breath, be “flawed”, and discover what makes it unique.

I’m going back to the beginning of high school. Back to a time when I could just hit publish and move on.

I am giving myself permission to suck.