One of the most inspiring people I have ever met, a dear friend, and the former Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services MN (where I worked from 2000 – 2004), David Norgard of od180 Consulting used to say to me:
Rachel, the ideal is the enemy of the good.
I believe that what he was challenging, in his great wisdom, was my propensity for perfectionism. He encouraged me to just step out, even when it felt risky because I hadn’t had a chance to dot every i and cross every t.
Of course he was right. I was afraid that if I took the bold step of saying that something was finished I would open myself up to more criticism than I could handle. That someone would find a typo in the printed piece, or point out that I had mis-measured the size of the display after it had arrived on the trade show floor.
He was saying that getting something good done is better than never accomplishing anything because you are waiting for it to be better. Or (heaven forbid) perfect. Sometimes you just have to call it complete and stop the tinkering.
I could have worked on this blog for another 2 hours, by the way. It could obviously be improved. Plus I don’t really like this hue of green.
Because (obviously) everything could be made better, given enough time. But we are not immortal. And there is beauty to be shared. There are things to be accomplished. Small things and great things; things that only you can do in your way.
This was – and continues to be – very useful advice.
Certainly, if it were dependent on my being 100% prepared and qualified, I never would have started my own business. After all, I don’t even have a relevant degree (mine is in Modern Languages: French, Spanish and Italian). On my most insecure days I still have to fight off the question: Who the heck am I to be giving paid advice to others regarding marketing and fundraising?
But I have come to believe Woody Allen’s quote that 80% of success is just showing up. Because I’ve seen this truth played out.
A lot of extremely talented people simply don’t show up. And smart people. And experienced and qualified people. But they find reasons, conscious or unconscious, to not do whatever it is that they would like to do. They speak wistfully of a certain course of action, but they never feel ready.
The ideal is the enemy of the good has become a cornerstone of my work with clients. I focus on working with entrepreneurs, very small businesses and non-profit organizations. In nearly every case my clients do not have the luxury of ample time or money to shoot for perfection.They simply must do something.
And doing something will start the momentum toward doing more, while doing nothing will keep them exactly where they started. Sure, if I stay exactly where I am right now, I won’t risk making a fool of myself. But I also won’t make any progress toward what I desire.
What is not started today, is never finished tomorrow.
There is something supernatural about boldly stepping forward, even when it seems, on the face of it, to be completely ridiculous:
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
What have you been putting off in hopes of a more perfect day, more perfect circumstance, more perfect you?
Maybe today’s the day to be bold.
To begin it. Whatever “it” is.
Keep me posted when you step out. I’m over here, cheering you on.