“Sometimes despite the determination to jump in, the enormity of an important task can stop you in your tracks, especially at the beginning. Getting started can be hard. The writer faces the blank page; the teacher, the first day of school; businesspeople, the launch of a new project.” -Tom and David Kelley from Creative Confidence
At some level, we are all paralyzed by perfectionism. We want things to be right, to be the best, what we do, what we share, what we create, we want it to be perfect. So we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait…
We remain suspended in the planning stage, in the getting ready stage, in the perfecting stage.
And what’s worse, very often this need to create perfect, instead of pushing us forward to get better, actually hinders and keeps us from improving and fine-tuning our skills. We actually end up doing less than doing more. We spend more time thinking and considering than actually doing, trying, practicing, building our capacity through a constant cycle of failing and redoing.
According to Tom and David Kelley in Creative Confidence, “In other words, to ultimately reach a creative breakthrough, you just need to start, regardless of small failures that may occur along the way.”
They continue, “It’s hard to be “best” right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements. The messiness of such trial and error may seem uncomfortable at first, but action allows most of us to learn at a faster rate; it’s almost a prerequisite for success. Otherwise, the desire to be the best can get in the way of getting better.”
Whether it’s the Kelley Brothers with building creative confidence, the DuFours and Eaker on improving education, or Pfeffer and Sutton for initiating business success, they all expound on the value and necessity of doing.
Doing is often our path to improvement and success…
In Creative Confidence, the Kelley Brothers discuss the subtle, yet enormous mental chasm that exists between when we determine to “try” something, as opposed to determining to actually “do” something. The difference between action and consideration.
Or, as they share from Stanford’s d.school academic director Bernie Roth…“It’s as if today is for attempts, and the real action will happen at some vague future moment. To achieve your goal, to topple the barriers that stand in your way, you have to be focused on getting it done now.”
As an added point, Tom and David Kelley share in Creative Confidence the story of a ceramics instructor who divided his class between those who would be graded on “quality” and those who would be graded on “quantity.”
And the result of this exercise?
“At the end of the course, the best pieces all came from students whose goal was quantity, the ones who spent the most time actually practicing their craft.”
The case has been made very clear, if you want to improve, if you want to create change, if you want to move forward, you can’t wait for perfection. You have to jump in, create action, and allow yourself to gain momentum and improvement within the process. It is about a mindshift, moving from an idea of “try” to an action of “do“.
And yet, unfortunately…
“Many of us get stuck between wanting to act and taking action.” -Tom and David Kelley
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What an inspirational post-just what I needed to hear. Although I still struggle with that focus on perfection and getting stuck in the planning stage, the “doing” is definitely the game changer for designing more effective individualized instruction. So far the results have been well worth the risks. Thanks for the post and I am excited to read the book.
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Great post, I think of Twain’s quote that ‘continual improvement is much better than delayed perfection”. I picked up a copy of Creative Confidence and look forward to reading it over the next couple of weeks.
Thank you for your inspiring post, David. I just finished reading Creative Confidence and am still processing the many insights. You struck a chord. Just do it! Often, we do get stuck “trying” to make things perfect and stall. I appreciate your nudge to start, take action and risks.
As always, I appreciate your keen ability to distill wisdom and make is accessible to the rest of us.