This is a guest post by Scott Mautz. Scott is CEO of Prof0und Performance, a workshop, coaching and online training company. I highly recommend his new book Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. After I read it, I asked Scott if we could run this book excerpt. You’ll find the entire book full of excellent advice.
6 Helpful Insults
Nobody’s perfect, but some people try anyway. Perfection seems like a noble goal. Managers expect employees to pay attention to detail and perform at their best. Many spouses think their significant others could strive a little harder for perfection (My wife is the one exception.)
In reality, your inner perfectionist is sucking the life out of you and your relationships. You need to squash it to find contentment and inspiration for your work and your life.
So let’s hurl some insults at our inner perfectionists, shall we?
1. “I’m gonna slap the ‘should’ out of you.”
Seriously, strike the word should from your vocabulary. When perfectionists use the word, like in the sentences, “I should go over this again to make sure it’s 100 percent right,” “This should be a lot better than it is right now,” or “I should have done X and Y,” it’s like granting a license for perpetual revisiting and remorse. Stop. Will more massaging really change the outcome? Tell yourself done is done, dammit.
“Strike the word should from your vocabulary.” -Scott Mautz
The collateral damage of your perfectionism is everywhere—don’t underestimate it.
Perfectionists tend to judge and criticize not only themselves but everyone else. The more they see their own flaws in others, the more they pick, as a sort of displacement mechanism. The constant criticism and judging isolates and distances the perfectionist from others, further exacerbating their “I must not be good enough” belief. Perfectionists are often unaware of the impact this corrosive behavior has on others. They’re assuming that everyone else is harshly judging them, so to do so as well is just the way of the world.
Expand your worldview and understand that your misplaced heat, like that of global warming, is indeed affecting the world around you for the worse.
“Perfectionists are often unaware of the impact this corrosive behavior has on others.” -Scott Mautz
If you’ve ever been to Philadelphia in the summer, you know how hot it is.
Imagine yourself there in 1776. You’re a representative of one of the colonies, wearing a dress coat, a shirt with sleeves tightly cuffed at your wrist and, of course, your silk stockings.
It’s now July 4th and the document is ready for signature. With its final approval, the colonies will declare independence from Great Britain, ending a long debate and all revisions of the document. The United States, a new nation, will be born.
You approach the table and see John Hancock’s signature in massive letters, which he says is so that “King George can see it without spectacles.”
Your turn to sign. The other delegates look at you expectantly.
You realize the weight of the moment, but you also realize that, by signing, your own life will be in danger. To many, you will be a traitor. If the revolution fails, you will hang for just a few letters on a piece of paper.
You push those thoughts aside and sign.
Your signature, along with the others, just changed the world.
A new beginning. The United States of America is now born.
The new country was far from perfect. The horrific practice of slavery wouldn’t end until the Civil War nearly ripped the country apart. Women and minorities had no vote.
Still, the United States of America would become a country that most of us are proud to call home. We value family, freedom, God and country.
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.
Lessons from Downton Abbey
After six seasons, the popular PBS series Downton Abbey has ended. As the series unfolded, we watched the characters evolve through many changes in their society and personal lives. As the characters changed and matured, there were numerous lessons and wisdom for life demonstrated in the show.
“Leadership through visible action is always effective.” -Bruce Rhoades
For all of those reasons and more, being right is not always worth the cost.
When you are right, what happens? Others applaud your brilliance! They nod to you as you pass them in the hall. A gleaming trophy arrives for your new corner office, allowing everyone to know that you are “RIGHT.”
Ah, no. Not exactly. Pretty much none of that happens.
It’s far better to allow others to be right. Let little offenses pass. Save the disagreements for the big things.
“Celebrating accomplishments is one of the fastest ways to change a culture.” -Skip Prichard
That’s my advice for individuals. It happens in organizations, too. When an entire organizational culture is centered on being “right,” what happens then?
You will find a culture:
With more meetings. Instead of having a conversation about an issue, everyone works hard to be correct. That means that there are meetings to prepare for meetings to prepare for meetings.
With longer meetings. Everyone needs time to share the “right” point of view. Everyone needs the microphone to prove her point or to highlight his knowledge. And we need time to point out the flaws in everyone else.
Thai Nguyen is a professional chef, international athlete, writer, and speaker. He is passionate about sparking personal revolutions in others.
More often than not, productivity is synonymous with success. The more quality content you are able to produce, the higher your conversion rate will be. Even talent is no match for productivity. The ever-entertaining Will Smith, with his numerous successes covering television, music, and cinema, was quick to respond when asked what his key to success was:
“I’ve never really viewed myself as talented, where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic. When the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. When the other guy is eating, I’m working.”
It is a sentiment echoed by many great figures: If you just keep showing up and doing the work, results will come. When considering what stands against being productive, the usual suspects are procrastination, distraction, lack of self-discipline, and lack of willpower. However, there are three toxic habits that eat these culprits for breakfast:
Striving to be perfect is not a bad thing. As long as you see perfection as the ideal and not the real. The reality is that everything can be improved. That is why you see new iPhones and iPads continually being churned out. That is why records are continually broken in every sport. Perfection is a unicorn that keeps running away.
Contentment is the enemy of improvement. -Thai Nguyen
Perfection cripples productivity when you spend far too much time working on the product rather than getting it out there. The inevitable question of, “What is the ideal amount of time?” is indeed a tricky one. The resolution is to be clear about your desired outcome as you are working on the project. What is it that you want your customers to experience once they are exposed to your product? If you are able to meet that level of expectation, then you have done your job. If you are able to exceed it, even better. But do not try to go beyond that and revolutionize the world. Not yet, anyway. That will happen when you least expect it.
Being happy with your current state of being, your achievements and quality of relationships, is certainly a desirable goal—as long as it has a “best by” date on it. Contentment is the enemy of improvement. It is what keeps good from becoming great. You should always be seeking to set the bar higher and improving in all aspects of life. Snow is beautiful until you have to live with it daily.
You are probably screaming, “What on earth is wrong with being happy with a situation?” That adage, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” may be ringing in your head right now. The reason contentment should only be a spring break is because change is inevitable. Everything is temporal. Change is the very fabric of the universe, and as much as you may strive to stay stationary, the tide will move you. We grow older, and we mature; technology continues to make groundbreaking changes; culture and society will ebb and flow. Thus, change and improvement, not contentment, goes hand in hand with personal development and productivity.