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Perfectionism is the enemy of the creative

william choukeir posted this June 26, 2014
 

“do you mind, even a little, that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and […] career ahead of your creative […] life? giving all your life force away, to ‘help’ and impress.” —anne lamott

what does people-pleasing have to do with perfectionism? let’s get into that right after we establish a common understanding of perfectionism.

think of it this way, in geometry, you can imagine a perfect picture-frame with right angles, and with edges that are perfectly parallel.

in real life, there are no perfectly parallel lines. trying to re-create this perfect frame in the real world would be perfectionism. It’s like chasing the horizon.

“it’s actually kind of tragic”, admits david foster, because doing anything means that you “sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.”

so what does people-pleasing have to do with perfectionism?

it’s common for fear to be lurking behind people-pleasing, and that more often than not leads to perfectionism. i expect a couple of you to disagree with the following statement. if you do disagree, then you’re either not aware of the fear, or the following doesn’t apply to you.

you may not be aware that fear [usually] lurks behind perfectionism. fear is the fuel that drives your compulsion to polish things to the ultimate.” says renown psychiatrist david burns, M.D.(1) people-pleasers are usually afraid. According to burns, perfectionism protects you. “it may protect you from risking criticism, failure, or disapproval.”

one perfectionist confesses that if he didn’t submit a perfect paper, he’ll let down the professor, get a D, ruin his own academic record, and people would be angry with him, he’ll be a failure, rejected by everyone, alone and miserable.(2)

people-pleasing often leads us to follow someone else’s dreams and ideas, thinking them our own.

“a lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. they’re sucked in from other people. […] what i want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. […] because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.” —alain de botton

imagine being a perfectionist while attempting to work on a task you’d like to like. that’s a recipe for procrastination. imagine pursuing a journey you ‘thought’ you wanted, only to find out that it’s what someone else wanted.

perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. it will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. […] it will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you’re an artist, it will destroy you.” —anne lamott

perfectionism freezes you. like ice stuck in time and space. water, on the other hand, flows. it glides around obstacles, adjusts its path, and moves forward. accept that ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist. ideas are only perfect within the safety of our minds.

“remember that sooner or later, before your work ever reaches perfection,  you will have to let it go and move on and start […] the next thing.” —neil gaiman

flow around obstacles, critics, and those who want you to follow their idea of success. accept to sacrifice your perfect idea. put it into a shitty first draft. refine a few times. then move on to the next best thing. some will like it. some will hate it. be very clear with yourself about who it’s for. it’s only those who matter. listen. improve. then move on. anything you give to the world is better than keeping it in your head. the world deserves your gift.

if you can do that, then maybe you’ll realize that passion can replace perfectionism. risk having your ideas clash with the world enough times, and you’ll learn. you’ll grow. and so will your gifts. in your eyes it may still not be perfect. but in the eyes of your audience, it may very well be remarkable. flow, despite the fears, the self doubts, and the risk of rejection.

“perfection is like chasing the horizon. keep moving.” —neil gaiman


this post is from ‘edition 11′ of our ‘inspirations newsletter’. subscribe below to receive these regular editions by email. every edition also includes acad 3d models of chairs, stools, tables, and sofas, exclusive to our subscribers. subscribe below:

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resources 1 and 2: Burns, David D. (1999). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Avon Books (Whole Care). pp. 359-363.

Nothing on your blog works? Do you have this one habit

william choukeir posted this May 14, 2014

why nothing on this blog works; unless you have this one habit

…and not just on this blog. i’m also referring to all advice, self-help blogs, books, and anything remotely related to personal and professional development.

let me explain through a story.

jake is the co-founder of vimeo. After selling vimeo, he found himself unproductive and unhappy.  Throughout the next year or so, he came up with a simple system that has helped him re-find his productivity and happiness. he posted this system online and called it ‘standards‘.

like most systems out there, if you try using ‘standards’, it’ll likely not work for you; unless you have this one habit. here’s why.

‘standards’ is a simple list of things you want to do (or avoid) daily. each day, you mark with a check the items you succeeded with, and with a cross those you failed at.

jake tried it the first week and failed. he tried it the second week and failed a little less. after a few months, he was accomplishing everything on his list on most days. his life started turning around.

jake had, whether knowingly or not, acquired a valuable habit that allowed him to make his system work for him.

Through my two years of research and experimentation with habits, i’ve come to the realization that this one habit is the father of all habits. it’s the habit that breeds habits. and habits, in my experience, are the most efficient tool to create the life you want for yourself.

this habit isn’t perseverance. it isn’t grit either.

if you keep on doing what you’ve been doing,
you’ll keep on getting what you’ve been getting.

you need to change something, not just persevere. let’s call this habit: ‘the habit of planning for banana peels.’

you’re walking happily. suddenly you feel lifted off the ground and are falling back in slow motion. before your ass hits the ground you realize you’ve slipped on a banana peel.

an expectation of yours is unmet—banana peel.
you try some advice and fail—banana peel.
you loose a project—banana peel.
your client refuses a design—banana peel.

‘the habit of planning for banana peels’ looks like this.
Every time you slip, you ask—and answer—two questions:
1• how will i respond the next time i slip?
2• what can i do differently to avoid slipping next time?

With this core habit, even if you try some advice and it doesn’t work the first time, you’ll automatically choose what’ll you do differently next time.

if you don’t already have this core habit, then even this article won’t help you acquire it; without you getting some pre-requisites.

These pre-requisites can be in the form of skills, habits, or knowledge (i.e. awareness of your thoughts and emotions.)

if you eventually do succeed at building ‘the habit of planning for banana peels’, maybe then, you’ll be able to make some of the valuable advice that’s out there (or here) work for you.

now you’re aware. the rest is up to you.


this post is from ‘edition 10′ of our ‘inspirations newsletter’. subscribe below to receive these regular editions by email. every edition also includes acad 3d models of chairs, stools, tables, and sofas, exclusive to our subscribers. subscribe below:

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