10 Secrets to Moving Forward While Falling Short
Those who can’t fall short can’t move forward. The pursuit of excellence requires imperfection. Steps toward excellence are always inadequate.
The nature of moving forward is you’re always falling short.
Excellence is achieved as the result of a long series of imperfect improvements. The ability to accept the inadequate, at least temporarily, is essential in the pursuit of excellence.
“Averagists,” those who take imperfect steps toward achievable goals, always go further than perfectionists. Each step forward calls for another because you haven’t arrived.
“Research shows that perfectionism hampers success.”
7 dangers of perfectionism:
- Constant feelings of being a failure.
- Inability to make progress because progress is imperfect.
- Feeling superior to average folk.
- Need approval but find it dissatisfying at the same time.
- Isolation. Approval based on perfection causes withdrawal.
- Lack of allies.
- Disappointment and distrust of others who always disappoint.
Excellence requires doing badly at first.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
G. K. Chesterton
Experience shows that many leaders are perfectionists. I’m one. Some of the things on the list below just irk me.
- Try something without putting all your eggs in one basket.
- Let go and let others step in. Perfectionists need to do everything themselves.
- Say, “Good enough.”
- Ask, “What are we learning?”
- Make a fool of yourself in a safe environment. Engage in an activity where it’s likely you’ll fall short.
- Disclose a weakness to a friend.
- Engage in self-reflection.
- Find a mentor who will help you do badly.
- Evaluate your goals. Are they high but achievable?
- Pursue progress not perfection.
The thing that troubles me the most about doing something badly is accepting mediocrity. The trouble with excellence is it takes time.
Facebook fans respond: “The differences between pursuing excellence and pursuing perfection include _______.
How can leaders pursue excellence and reject perfectionism?
Liking this post Dan!
Sheryl Sandberg said it well, “Done is better than perfect”.
Dan, I love this. I’m an amateur cyclist, and when I first began riding, I often got discouraged when my more experienced colleagues went whizzing by me, even up some incredibly challenging hills!
But then one wise rider reminded me that even if I have to walk my bike up a hill, or climb at a turtly 3 mph, both of these are still forward progress – and that I can only get faster if I keep pedaling.
Thanks for the reminder 🙂
“I can only get faster if I keep pedaling.” Wisdom is profoundly simple.
Important skills for “moving forward”, thank you! A lifetime of mountaineering taught early on that often the only route to “success” (the summit) on some mountains is to hike up a scree slope – loose gravel or sand. Two steps forward then one step back is often very real progress. Celebrate it!
Thanks Randy. Great illustration. I thought you were going to talk about going sideways in order to get ahead. But, the scree slope illustration is even better.
Dan, going sideways is often good and necessary. The concept of “tacking” from sailing is an excellent one. I wrote of a few others in two 2010 posts on Course Correction that you might recall or enjoy: http://wp.me/pVUDj-w & http://wp.me/pVUDj-I .
Three things drew my attention- disclose weakness to friend, find mentor and engage into self reflection. They are backbone of pursuing excellence. I agree that many times in order to achieve perfection, we hamper our progress. So, it is important that we should focus on progress. Perfection is the ideal state that never exists in real world. We can make effort to become better and that leads to excellence.
In the pursuit to achieve excellence the difficult task is to self weakness in front of friend. And even someone accepts it, even the more difficult is to work on that weakness. Secondly, having mentor is again challenging but accepting to improve based on suggestion takes much humility and courage. Finally, self- reflection is perhaps the best way to analyze self. If followed seriously, it shows where one is heading, lagging or struggling. I also think, that person is the best judge based on self reflection and suggestions taken from trusted ones. It is important to work on each component daily so that progress can be horizontally. The one who wants progress vertically perhaps fail to progress in all the areas.
Thanks Ajay. I’m glad you developed three of the ideas in this post.
My favorite line in your comment is “make effort to become better and that leads to excellence.”
You’re making me think about the pursuit of excellence as becoming excellent as a person, not focusing exclusively on projects or deliverables.
Thanks Ajay and Dan……I like the concept of becoming excellent as a person, as then all other things the projects and deliverables will fall in to place.
Or, as one of my mentors used to say to me, “Steve, never let Best get in the way of Better.”
Thanks Steve. Sage advice.
A perfect post! Enjoyed reading each word and sentence. Wow at end! Liked your initial comments and the conclusion ‘Pursue progress and not the perfection’.
Good leaders are never satisfied on their achieving success. They don’t waste their time in celebration but march ahead towards the higher goals by charging the team members with a spirit of victory. They stretch their goals higher and higher with newer enthusiasm and pushing the team to think of newer ways. Experimentation and bringing innovation in their implementation are the two driving forces. They are never afraid of failures but take that as stepping stones to greater success.
Bringing a healthy competition amongst people and throwing challenges are the additional motivating factors that leaders usually adopt while moving forward in the success journey. Imperfection is by way of ‘never satisfied’ and ‘working on newer challenges’ approach.
Thank you Dr. Asher. What’s better than writing a perfect post on perfectionism! 🙂
I’m glad you’re pointing out experimentation. Excellence requires it.
I have a couple perfectionists who work for me. I remind them that doing something “good enough” is not the same as doing something badly or producing a mediocre result. Much more often than not, our user areas (in-house clients) are delighted with a good enough result that they can begin implementing and using as quickly as possible; rather than waiting and waiting (and waiting) until they get something that is perfect (which is a no-win proposition anyway).
Thanks Scott. YOu got me thinking about an “improve as you go” approach.
One thing that I have found is to choose one piece (something concrete, like editing or a budget) of what I am doing and go for perfection there. That way, I can move forward and when all of those parts I can’t totally control inevitably fall short, I can feel some relief that something was “perfect.” Yes. It is a disease.
Thanks Katie. I can see where breaking something down into smaller pieces makes room for us to develop each component. Thanks for helping perfectionists.
Reblogged this on THE STRATEGIC LEARNER and commented:
This is one of my favorite leadership blogs … Dan just seldom fails to deliver thoughtful and useful advice, phrased in easily understood language …
Empowering employees with the freedom to fail often has the reverse effect. It’s a culture. Leaders create it.
My first ever post was about the freedom to fail.
Thanks Keegan. Love that insight…”freedom to fail often has the reverse effect” KaPow!
I have the opposite problem…I rarely pursue perfection, settling for good enough nearly all the time. It drives perfectionists crazy. I am surrounded by perfectionists. It can be very isolating. But I love to hear it expressed as a positive trait.
Thanks dunkablog. Settling for good enough in the pursuit of excellence is awesome. Settling for “good enough” is mediocrity.
Having said that, in some areas, it’s not worth the effort to achieve excellence. Just move into areas that matter more.
Well my experience teaches me that NOTHING works till I try and fail utterly. Till I convince myself nothing else matters. No one telling me, not you, my momma, NO ONE! The time that takes over time has shortened I am happy to say. Honestly, believe that is how it works with other folks too.
As far as perfectionism goes, changing my idea of what perfection is helps.
Each one of us is a perfect creation. To think otherwise is to pretty much say God made crap.
Too bold a thought even for me. So adjusting the way I perceive things has helped me a ton.
Things are prefect, I just need to train myself to see them this way.
I need to change in me my perception and my attitude, not change what is out of my control.
Another thing that helps is that greatest manual for living ever written(just my opinion, does not mean you are wrong somehow if you do not agree) The AA Big Book, it says to seek progress, not perfection.
Great thought stimulator.
How about spending the day being an oxytocin generating machine instead of a cortisol generating machine! 74% of people, Harris Interactive Poll reports number one source of stress is their job! That creates cortisol! That shuts off the immune system. Look at the health of the average person in the US. 25% say they hate their job. Just more cortisol production.
Gallup said 70%. Now Harris up to 74% What are we as Leaders doing about it?
Now before the thumbs down rain, it is NOT ME making this up. I am just sharing it. Please if you do not like this take it up with Harris! Or go ahead and thumbs down me, that just doesn’t help in anyway making things better, does it? Promise you get no oxytocin thumbs downing me, biologically it don’t work like that.
Want to know more about cortisol and oxytocin. Free video on Vimeo…….Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last. FREE! His new book is out and taking 250 pre-orders for an autographed copy! Got mine, you get yours?
It just befuddles me these facts do not make more people want to do something about it. Especially here on a Leadership Blog. Hey in my opinion the greatest Leadership blog out there.
I just do not understand why this is not an issue addressed here. Maybe one day……
Anyway, great stuff today Dan,
SP the befuddled dude!
thanks Scott. Love that first sentence. “Nothing works till I try and fail utterly.”
My Cross Country Coach in High School when in came to hills he would shout “Relax and push” as I learned this works in life as well. Not to be compared to a women in child birth, during these birthing classes they tell us the same thing…. Can life be that simple?
Thanks Tim. “Relax and push” what a delightful combination. I can see the relaxed cheeks of sprinters bobbing up and down when they play the race back.
Tightening up definitely slows us down.
Love the post, Dan! How liberating to have the freedom to fail on the way to success.
Thanks Tyler. “On the way to success….” 🙂
There are times when detail paralysis takes over and halts all forward progress. This is a great reminder that there is a fine line between stagnation and forward momentum.
Wait does perfection exist? Only for you. To another they may see something else that needs addition or subtraction. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. That’s the good and the bad if it. Letting go does everyone a favor. So we grow either way.
This is a great post as always.
25 years ago I worked with an engineer that had a poster on his office wall that said “We shall strive for progressive improvement rather than postponed perfection.” Your post reminded me of those words. Thanks.
Thanks. This gives me a better way to understand what it means to persist.
Great advice Dan. This gives me a lot of inspiration to be optimistic throughout my day!
I love this post!!
It came at a perfect time. Last week I lost my patience with my partners in an initiative we are stewarding together. I said things and spoke in a manner that I deeply regret. Fortunately, these partners have become dear friends and the oodles of equity and goodwill between us enabled us to get beyond my outburst and for them to forgive me. Your post helped liberate me as Tyler Harrison put it, to forgive myself- to tolerate the inevitable failures, mistakes and imperfections on the road to success.
What a great post Dan! Realizing that we are only human is the first step to achieving true success. Without imperfections we wouldn’t feel the need or desire to keep trying again and again, until we achieve what we’re meant to and continue to win our rooms. Thanks for reminding me of this.
Great post Dan! I too have struggled with perfectionism. I refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist. I’m much better than I was but I have a long way to go.
I have coached a lot of leaders that struggle with perfectionism as well. Your tips are a great resource to challenge leaders to step out of their comfort zone.
Perfectionism is good, when combined with humility. At times, however, it can prevent us from moving ahead
This reminds me of a quote that went something like: “Even when you stumble, you’re moving forwards.” 🙂
This is a great video that backs up all you write about for us.http://goo.gl/UnMwoX
You always share maybe I can give some back ;o)