Progress Over Perfection

“You don’t have to know and take all the steps, just take the first one.”

I wish the quote above was true with the way that I approach publishing a post or preparing for a speech. However, I am an over-thinker and a slight perfectionist.

Instead, here is my typical method with just about anything I want to publish:

  • Develop the initial thought/idea that I want to share
  • Travel into the depths of many resources to gain examples and ideas
  • Sit on the information, maybe even word vomit on a page
  • Outline my word vomit for common themes
  • Have something that can produce but tinker with better phrasing, more quotes, fewer stores, more context, etc.
  • Save it in my drafts and don’t look at it. Forever

It might not be that drastic, but it’s something I do on frequent bases. A lot of these characteristics within my thought process isn’t bad. I want whatever I am producing to be crisp, comprehensive, and compelling for the audience. There’s nothing wrong with working through concepts before publishing.

My problem is that I stay in the grooming and reworking. I set up camp and never leave. My thoughts that somehow make it to the written stage wind up in the Land of Misfit Posts, where ideas, content, and concepts go to be forgotten and never heard from again.

Take this true, very recent scenario: at the end of January of 2017, I decided that I would explore the world of writing. I’ve done some writing in the past but was never consistent. Through affirmation from my wife, family, and friends I got serious with it. I researched, wrote a ton, and figured something out that will help me find my voice.

Fast forward about a half of a year in, I have over 60 drafts of posts I can’t bring myself to publish. Want to know why?

Fear.

Fear of rejection. Fear of judgment. Fear of inadequacy. Fear of hopping on the “blogging train.” Fear of having nothing new to say in an already saturated space called the Internet.

This fear is real! I placed so much weight in this potential venture to where I now have a mild anxiety attack when I consider someone reading these words. My words.

Society has a really weird, messed up fetish for comparisons. It also has a keen knack for misguiding us to feel like we aren’t cut out to carry out whatever we want to achieve. We desire the feeling of accomplishment for the work we produce, but through the work we find ourselves stretched by the demands of our culture.

Society demands us to meet their definitions of success, make us check their list of what’s acceptable, and balance and judge the things we place value.

Our social institutions developed deep ties to labels that will either give us access or make us outcasts. It might not always be the case, but it is compelling enough for people to not want to leave their comfort zones because of what others may think of them.

But, the people define the rules of society. And because I am one of those people, I have the ability to challenge the rules and redefine success.

While I don’t think that I will ever ignore or overcome the pressures of our society completely, there are a few concepts that are helpful in my response:

Understand the why — I know I want to articulate great content that encourages and empower others. The validation is there. The work is continuing to be vetted. I can’t let my own doubt hinder me from even trying.

Place a greater value in progress instead of perfection — Growth will come if I humbly step into the world of the unknown within out having to have it all figured out. This releases the tension to not feel like I have to meet worldly expectations on day one or day one hundred. I can build some confidence as I continue working at my craft.

“You do you, Imma do me” — The comparison game will leave me feeling inadequate and lacking self-confidence. I can learn from others, but they can’t be my measuring stick or threshold for achievement.

At work, we often utilize Lean and Agile principles when we are working on a project. The goal is to take a large work effort into smaller chunks for a few reasons: provide a chance to adapt to customer feedback, make changes quickly, and release a product quicker all in hopes of satisfying the customer. One hidden concept with this methodology is the idea that it doesn’t have to be perfect before it’s produced, just start it and build upon it. Everything can be continuously improved over time.

In technology, everything goes through an upgrade to help improve bugs and the user experience. Professional and amateur sporting teams make constant improvements throughout the year to find the right pieces to win a championship.

Personally, why can’t my daily actions go through that same mentality in order to achieve my own definition of success?

It can. And it will. I’m praying for boldness in my everyday actions. Through wisdom, discernment, and community, I am committing myself to posting something once a week. It’s an achievable goal that allows me space to create something worthwhile for someone to read (yes, there is a hint of desiring acceptance in that sentence).

We need to place a greater value in progress instead of perfection.

Ideas, writings, side hustles, any work that we do, doesn’t need to be perfect at the very beginning. It is okay to work through something, as long as it’s continually being worked on.

So start something! Make it happen! Get some feedback and work at it again! We all have a story to tell that can benefit someone who needs you to show up.

And we need to do a better job of celebrating, encouraging, and constructively developing one other in hopes to alleviate this fear of insecurities we all internalize.

Thank you for reading and engaging! Feedback is always encouraged!

Find me on Twitter to continue the discussion!

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Raymond D. White

Raymond D. White

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Regularly reflecting. Love learning. Cultivating Community. Husband and Father | Proverbs 3:5-6