The curse of perfection + a little fear of failure
There are a thousand ‘fear of failure’ clichés to choose from. My favourite is an inverse of the sentiment by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
Though cliche, it’s rooted in reality.
How do we understand what’s holding our professional intentions back, and how do we overcome them?
We learn to create from a young age. Those sparks of invention, of connecting the dots, help us problem solve, encourage us to learn, and help us produce relevant outcomes no matter what industry we’re in.
And yet, as adults we learn that erring on the side of caution is the path of least resistance when there is something at stake. We tread the paths that have been paved; traditional solutions and marketing must-haves like websites and capability documents. We whip up an excel spreadsheet because it’s too hard to ‘change manage’ a team to use a new tool that would double efficiencies, be accessible remotely and not be out-of-date the moment you save and exit the document. God forbid you have to open it at the same time as anyone else!
Something I say often is, “if something seems too tedious or difficult, there is probably a better way of doing it.” Auto-responses, automated Microsoft templates, mail merges, email marketing sequencing, even ‘repeat action’ in most design programs and ‘remove duplicates’ in an excel spreadsheet can be simple, but they keep me sane when doing repetitive tasks. (And I’ve wanted to throw my laptop at a wall or out a window more than once.)
These small improvements come from the desire to resolve a ‘pain point’. However, too often we put great ideas in the ‘too hard basket’ because there’s either not enough time to research, develop and implement, or because we’re afraid it won’t work. So many good ideas have sprouted, but then been sent to die before they’ve had time to blossom.
Of course, there are hurdles to implementing new initiatives, but in most cases if it’s worth doing, there’s going to be an uphill battle.
Don’t settle for less than spectacular, and don’t get too caught up in the need for perfection. Just like those small administrative improvements, sometimes the smallest marketing efforts can have the biggest impact. Like documenting and sharing your process around the office, allowing your staff to be involved and post about their experiences at work, filming short videos of the directors sharing industry specific insights on a smartphone, or bringing in a specialist for a couple of hours to up-skill staff on thought leadership, customer service and social media.
When you’re at that point of having a good idea but are about to cast it aside, instead have coffee with someone who can help you develop it, put it on paper and effectively articulate it to decision-makers to encourage greater team buy-in.
Remember, though, that some people are inherently ‘naysayers’ and will more quickly abandon or condemn an idea than they will accept it. They are useful in refining a well-developed idea because they see issues and risks others miss, but don’t speak to them any earlier – consulted too soon, they kill good ideas.
Once you feel like your idea is ready, communicate it with the key-decision makers. And yes, it might not work. But as Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” So give it a darn good shot. We’re all making calculated gambles on a daily basis – bet on yourself a little more.
Next time an idea sprouts, give it some breathing room – you can even give me a call if you want to chat it through. Who knows, maybe you’ll surprise yourself, and if not, there’ll always be another waiting to be uncovered.