Why You Need to Quit Demanding Perfection From Yourself

Updated: May 24, 2012

Sean Davis

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This is a guest post by Sean Davis of SDavisMedia.

Everyday, I wake up, think about what I want to do, sit down to do it, and then talk myself out of it.

Not because it’s the wrong thing to do. But because I don’t feel like I’m good enough yet.

I can’t write a book until I experience more. I can’t launch a product until my email list is bigger. I can’t cook breakfast until I watch a YouTube video on how to scramble eggs. Luckily, the video won’t buffer. I’ll just pour a bowl of cereal instead.

No matter the task, I always find reasons not to do it. It’s never the right time to make it happen. Something else always has to happen first.

And this, my friends, is grade A bullcrap.

Why We Don’t Take Action

Too often, we hold ourselves to a higher standard because that’s what self-development teaches.

At first glance, that seems like a good thing. Is it always, though?

I’m going to argue that it’s not. Hear me out.

What’s the shortest distance between Point A and Point B?

If you guessed, “a straight line,” congratulations on being an expert in that area. Here’s the problem, though.

Most people don’t pay attention to what defines a line.

By definition, and heavily summarized, a line is a continuous point extending in a given direction. There are no breaks in a line.

So, why is that people expect to have super human teleportation powers when going from novice to expert?

It’s impossible (excuse my language).

You’re currently at Point A, as inexperienced as can be. Now, all of a sudden, you want to do the world’s best work as if you have already reached Point B?What happened to the straight, continuous line? That’s the most direct path, right?

When you set out to write the best book in the history of the Earth, you immediately start comparing your output to the best writing you’ve ever read.

Now, you’re frustrated because you tried to teleport from Point A to Point B and it didn’t work. You’re not that good yet. Your work isn’t quite perfect at this point. Bummer.

After touching that pot a few times, you’ve decided to chill at Point A until you’re finally an expert. Then, you'll start writing again.

Days, months, and years go by and you’ve done nothing but psych yourself out.

Shame on you.

Embrace the Straight and Narrow

Between those two points is where magic happens. Everything you do along that continuous line is possible because of what you’ve done prior to that point.

There are no shortcuts. You need to walk that lonely road without digression or go find something else to do. Period.

Here’s the kicker, though.

You’re going to suck... bad. But how much you suck will be inversely proportional to how close you are to point B. In other words, as you walk the line, you’ll get better at what you do.

Your first book might not be great. That first blog design might look like pure garbage. That’s fine. It’s when you create garbage, and acknowledge that it’s garbage, that you’ll learn what it takes to no longer create garbage.

Make sense?

From right here at Point A, right now, start making moves. This is not college. Your 2.3GPA freshman year will not haunt you’re when you’re trying to get into grad school.

You’re allowed to improve upon your old self without penalty.

Just make sure you understand that you must improve upon your old self in order to grow into that expert you want so desperately to be.

Do your work... so that your work becomes good work... and eventually, great work.

Before you know it, Point B will be your new Point A. That’s for another article, though.

The Takeaway

Don’t get caught up in the hype of being an expert. Expertise is relative. No matter what, there is always someone striving to get to where you are. You’re an expert to them.

With that being said, stop believing that you know exactly what expertise looks like. It’s different for everyone.

Learn to be as much of an expert that your current level of knowledge will allow. That way, you can build upon that knowledge with experience, and keep improving.

The current you has no right to demand perfection.

Instead, try demanding progress.

In a comment on his article about triathlons, Joel Runyon said that “Every ‘expert’ has to start somewhere. If you want to be an Ironman, you have to get in the water for your first sprint. As glamorous as being an ‘expert’ sounds, all experts have to be beginners at some point.”

You never know, somewhere along the line, people may just label you as an expert much earlier than you expected. You may not even feel deserving. But you have to get started... and you’ll probably suck at first.

Just understand that you’re expert enough to take the next step right now. So just do it.


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