Why this morning’s imperfect work was better than being perfect

Street Sign - Perfectly Imperfect
Street Sign - Perfectly Imperfect

Do you struggle with trying so hard to make something perfect that you never actually get it done?

That has been a recurring theme in my life. The fact that I have far more failures than successes has not eased my ambition. This is especially true when we do something we are passionate about. That pressure is exponentially increased when we are going to show our work to the world.

For me, this “Live As Fire” project is a constant example of that struggle.

We judge our work a thousand times before we let others judge us.

And that’s if we ever put ourselves out there. We are so afraid that our work–and by extension, ourselves–will not be good enough that we often do not finish what we start.

The more important the work, the more harshly and frequently we judge it and ourselves. The upside to this pressure is that we sometimes do something that we are proud of. And when what we do can positively impact another, especially someone in need, that is one of the best feelings in the world.

The downside is that we can get so consumed by our imperfections that we lose sight of what is important.

Imperfectly helping others is infinitely more valuable than not helping.

I am passionate about making a difference in others’ lives. I also want everything I try to do to be perfect.

Can you see where this becomes a problem?

I am not perfect. I do not have all of the skills or wisdom or time to make everything I do perfect. If I wait until something is perfect before I share it, I will accomplish almost nothing.

This morning, I wanted to share the Suicide Prevention page via our Facebook page. I thought, “I’ll make a nifty infographic that people can easily share.” So I started to try to make one. One small problem.

I am not a graphic designer. I can barely dress myself without looking a like a bad Picasso painting.

I spent a bit of time on it but it was not looking good. I almost gave-up and without making a post.

Then I realized something.

Perfectionism is selfish.

If someone is considering suicide, not sharing that information on our page because it doesn’t look good is selfish beyond reason.

Imagine if someone came-up to me and said, “Hey Howard, I’m suicidal. Can you give me a phone number or website where I can talk to someone?”

Would I tell them, “I can, but I won’t do that until I have created the perfect flyer for you. I mean, I want you to look at my flyer and be like ‘WOW! That is awesome looking!’. You don’t mind waiting until I do that right? It might be a few weeks–assuming I can ever finish it.”

Of course not.

“Stop trying to be perfect and start helping others.”

That’s what I told myself in an exasperated and stern voice. So instead of the graphic, I posted the link to the page. It’s not pretty–there’s not even an image and I’m sure it fails all kinds of “shareable content” best practices–but the information is out there. Maybe someone will see it and get help.

And that’s the point.

Looking for a need to fill? Find resources in the Ignite Change section.

–Howard Slacum


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