post written by: Marc Chernoff

Less than Perfect is a Perfect Start


Less than Perfect is a Perfect Start

Her First Subscriber

“How did you do it?” she asked.  “In a sea of blogs that never make it, how did you start a personal blog that attracted the attention of 10,000 subscribers?”

I chuckled.  “You know, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around that one myself.”

“Come on, Marc,” she insisted.  “I’m being serious here.  I’m getting ready to start my own blog and I’m nervous about failing.  I want to cross all my T’s and dot all my I’s – I don’t want to start it until I know how to do it right.”

I stared at her for a moment.  “Well, one Sunday evening a few years ago, I made a decision to write an article about something that inspired me, and then I published it on my blog.  And every Sunday evening since, I’ve made a similar decision.”

“That’s it?” she asked.  “No launch plan?  No design tweaks?  No marketing?”

“No, at least not initially,” I replied.  “I did a little tweaking later on down the road, but by then my blog already had a catalog of articles up online.  And most of the tweaks were based on reader feedback and analyzing visitor stats to see which articles were attracting the most attention.”

“So you think I simply need to start writing, right now… about the things that inspire me?”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “The only way you can fail is by not writing – by waiting around until you have the perfect plan before you start.  Because ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist.  It isn’t human.  It isn’t you.

She smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Later that afternoon, she emailed me a link to her first published blog article.  And I became her first subscriber.

What’s the core purpose?

The hardest part, I have found, of creating something new – a website, a product, a technology – is simply the act of starting.  We let our creative minds get so caught up in planning and designing idealistic requirements and prerequisites for our new creation, that we drastically hinder the actual process of creating it.

What stops most people from starting with a less than perfect plan or product is the fear of failure.  There’s a common misconception that if you don’t get it done exactly right the first time, your creation will fail and all efforts will be lost.  That without this feature or that tweak, there’s no point at all.  Nonsense.

The truth is that every successful creation or innovation has a foundational core purpose – a tiny essence that justifies its existence.  Any tweak or feature above and beyond the scope of this core purpose is optional.  When my friend decided she wanted to start a blog, she spent all of her energy trying to map out the perfect plan and design, instead of simply writing her first few blog articles – which is the core purpose of a blog.

So the next time you decide to create something new, back yourself into a corner, cut out the fluff, and release your core creation into the wild ASAP for others to experience and tinker with.  Less than perfect is a perfect start.  The need for intelligent tweaks and adjustments will arise naturally as time rolls on.

Photo by: Vu Bui

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35 Comments

  • We all have a desire to “make a difference”; to make improvements in our lives (may be even others lives). Yet, for a various reasons, when it comes to taking initiative many people face a magnitude of challenges.
    I wrote about it sometime ago..
    Jumpstart Your Initiative, You Have Waited Long Enough
    http://www.theenhancelife.com/2009/06/jumpstart-your-initiative-you-have.html

  • I really needed this…but I didn’t realize it until I read through it. I’m revamping my blog and I’ve been so anxious about getting it up…yet I delay because I feel it’s not perfect enough. But who cares?! If what I write about is worth something to someone (even just myself) than that is success. Thanks for the inspiration =)

  • Spot on. Fear of failure easily leads to over planning, which in turn leads to discarding ideas before getting anything out of them. Even the failures (or perhaps especially the failures) can teach you a lot. And in the end, popularity comes from writing/doing interesting things in an enticing way, not from the glitter on the surface.

    I am in a very similar situation to her. Kicking myself each day to actually act as if I really have understood the message.

    Understanding the issue is easy - committing to it is much harder.

  • I totally agree. Me and my fiancee just started a blog and you can prep and plan and tweak all you want but nothings going to happen unless you take some action.

  • Nice post and congratulations on 10,000 subscribers. I’ll get there eventually! :p

  • Well written, Marc. I have been postponing my blog for quite a while, because of the same reasons you describe. It feels great to finally have an outlet for your inspiration! Thanks.

  • Great point. It is so easy to get caught up in planning and perfecting that before we know it, we have made taking the first step a major ordeal. Sometime you just have to go and take things as they come. Everything proceeds by an orderly sequence of growth and once you buy into this, it is easier to just go ahead and take that first step. Of course, it takes confidence to do so and this post perfectly speaks and explains how to increase that confidence to take that first step. Thanks for sharing that insight…very motivating.

  • You’re right, the best way to do it is to just start and learn as you go along!

  • Marc:

    Thanks for this post. It’s an interesting one.

    It works differently for different people, however.

    Some writers, for example, are better at “stream of consciousness” writing, while others like to plan.

    The former tend to be more spontaneous, natural, organic and things pop into their heads, suddenly.

    The latter, by contrast, prefer a more refined, sophisticated, academic approach: the method approach or step by step, planning is key here.

    You have to find what works for you and go for it.
    Small steps can help, certainly, and also rituals.

  • Basically, I smile and say, “Thank You Mr. Marc.”

    Regards,
    Kuwait

  • yes yes yes … and so it is :) thank you for the post! I was just like that about my website … I just wasn’t “ready”, you know? Didn’t have the ideal lay-out, didn’t have all the write-ups to go, didn’t have all the geeky knowledge I thought you need for creating a website etc etc etc … and one day I thought that if I carry on thinking my brain will explode and I still won’t have a website!! … lol … and now it’s a continual work in progress and a continuous source of joy! … I am seeing it evolve just as I am evolving and as my photography is evolving … I am seeing more and more visitors pop in and more and more folk leaving me notes :) yeah, and I’m also seeing the sales pick up!! And you know what? The site’s still not “finished”, still not perfect! … I keep thinking of new things to add and fresh things to try … :) and it’s all really good fun! … If I’d waited ’till I was “ready”, it still wouldn’t be up and running.

    On another note - I really love your blog, you know that? It’s one of my favourites and I always look forward to the new posts coming through … often pass on the e-mail and share … So - thank you! I’m glad you make that regular decision to sit down and write about something that inspires you :)

  • “The only way you can fail is by not writing – by waiting around until you have the perfect plan before you start. Because ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist. It isn’t human. It isn’t you.”

    I love this. I held off for a long time on starting my little blog because it wasn’t the “perfect” time to start writing it. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by over thinking all of the details. You know what, who cares? As creative people, we need an outlet. If only one other person comes along for the ride, then welcome, my friend!

  • This can be applied to so many areas of our lives. For instance, if people cared less about starting out with perfection, they would be so much more likely to stick to their health related new year’s resolutions.

  • You couldn’t be more right… I am personally intimidated by a blank sheet of paper (or an empty word document). Getting started with an article and writing the first sentence seems to always be the most difficult thing to do.

    After that, however, the rest seems to follow automatically as I become more and more immersed by the act of writing and get into flow.

    //sami

  • This is something that took me years to learn! Now I like to call myself a “recovering perfectionist.” Often we confuse striving for excellence with striving for perfection. Excellence is realistic; perfection can be crippling.

    I recently published a book on overpowering perfectionism, based on my own experiences, as well as the stories of other recovering perfectionists. What I found the most interesting is that it was only *after* these lifelong perfectionists pushed passed their issues with perfectionism that they could finally reach the success they had strived for all their lives.

    Thanks for the motivating, and inspiring post!

  • My favorite phrase for any idea is “Done is better than perfect.”

    The best idea/blog/project/trip in the world is absolutely meaningless if you don’t go through the steps and actually do it.

    Seth Godin has a new book out called Linchpin, which is about doing work that matters and thinking like an artist in the way you share it with the world. And if you don’t share what you do you are not an artist. Artists create, and you can see the progression in their work over time. I like that analogy.

  • And when we begin doing a thing–blogging, painting, writing a novel or whatever it may be–we cannot know what perfect is because we have only just begun.

    The learning that will enable us to see that perfect form is what we gain by doing.

    :-)
    John

  • Always hard to start!!! You’re so right!

    I don’t really blog, but I’m a lawyer, and when I first started with legal drafting, it FELT SO IMPOSSIBLE.

    The thing that always worked, and continues to work, for me, is to open a new Word doc, and to type random ideas into it, with no intention whatsoever of using the document itself. Then I cut and paste from that. It’s a way to allow myself to write without judging myself. It’s so much easier to start if you don’t feel like you’re starting THE THING YOU HAVE TO WRITE. :)

  • Homerun! Touchdown! Goal!

    There is never the perfect time in life to do anything. The more you live the more you learn that just doing it is sufficient enough.

    That’s how I started my blog, just did it :)

    From that point on, it grew organically. It’s simple, but from the outside it seems complex. Great things take time :)

    Thanks for the reminder to Just Do It!

    Best,
    Tomas

  • Totally agree here. Just start something fantastic and it will grow on its own. A tree too big to embrace comes from a slender shoot.

  • This is very encouraging information. Recently I watched a TED talk by Seth Godin; the most important thing, he states, is to ship! In other words, get the product out, early and often. Failure is fine, as long as you keep growing, going, tweaking, and learning.

  • Nice post. I would take the whole “fear of failure” thing one step further, especially in relation to identifying your core purpose. People respond to that fear by soliciting lots of opinions and advice, which can be a good thing, but quite often the people giving you advice don’t know your core purpose or forget about it, or tell you what you *should* do or what *should* work.

    I have dealt with this quite a bit. I have received a lot of advice over the years, and most of it is well meaning but really would move me off my core purpose if I followed it. When I was a younger man, I would run off and follow it all; now that I have really identified my purpose it is a lot easier to figure out which advice to take and which to respectfully ignore.

    Thanks!

  • Very inspiring, ironically - or predictably. I’ll go write a new blog post now.

  • Great article and so true! Its the simplicity of just do it and then as you learn it will get figured out. When I run into something I am just moving on or received great help in forums too on specific issue. I have started and hope it will evolve as well as yours.
    Thanks!

  • Thanks for all the insightful comments, everyone.

    Have I told you lately that you inspire me?

    Well, you do. ;-)

  • You’re so wise, Marc. I couldn’t agree with you more about the need to just start. Analytical types like myself often fall into this trap you’ve written about.

    Opportunities often pass us by because we spend so much time chasing perfection and trying to see the logic in every possible step to be taken.

    It took some time for me to change my way of thinking because I was definitely the type who took detail-oriented to the absolute extreme. Dot every I, cross every T, and then double check them double times. LOL

    Like you said… fear of failure often resides under the surface of that behavior.

  • Loved how you helped the other blogger to get subscribers. I find myself in the same situation as her.
    NO, I am not asking you to subscribe. I just wanted to let you know that that single short blog could be the start of a really romantic movie. You know, now that valentine’s day is coming up, lol!
    So cheers from me, good job!

    tochtermannheims :)

    P.S.: feel free though to check out my blog: lettertocorey.blogspot.com

  • You’re absolutely right, so much of life is just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes we perfectionists need to be reminded to ‘just do it!’

  • Agree that action is the basis of learning and many who made the breakthroughs had little education but lots of determination as I found at http://myamazingpeople.com/

  • That is a good advice and story. Start with what you love, that is what I have done, let’ see how it follows.

  • Picking a direction and start the walk is really the only way to get something done. In developing product it’s easy to get stalled looking for the perfect idea forgetting that at any point in time any concept will be improvable. With writing I’m finding it’s the practice and feedback from trying that gets me to the next stage. Nice advice.

  • Marc, what a beautiful post and so inspiring! You hit the nail on the head there in the advice to your blogger friend– no matter what your end goal, the best way to start is to start small. By focusing on the little things you can control, such as the quality of your work, and moving one little step at a time, you can slowly but surely climb that mountain without becoming overwhelmed by the grandeur of it all.

  • Beautiful! I had been throwing around a blog idea forever and finally my husband took my hand and said “just start.” Best husband ever! I just found your blog and will be back for more. Thanks for the advice and encouragement. We would all benefit from more core purpose.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Everyone who starts, even without a clear idea of where they are going, gets somewhere. Everyone who ever successfully finished a piece of writing actually started. I blogged on a very similar subject myself in my creativity blog Failure and the art and science of perfection. Fear of failure is not a reason to put off starting, it should be an inducement.

    Thanks for a brilliant blog and a wonderful post.

    best regards

    Phil South

  • All the planning in the world won’t prevent you from failure. Stop planning. Just do!

    Thanks for sharing this piece. We all need reminding.

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