Are You Looking for Success or Perfection?

True confession: I am a perfectionist. I want to be the best at everything I attempt. And, I know I can’t be perfect at everything, all the time. Certainly not when I’m trying it for the first time. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to be perfect.

I have transformed this need to be perfect in several ways.

  1. I tell myself (and others) that I am a work in progress.
  2. I have permission to not be perfect when I am trying something, especially early in my practice of that new thing.
  3. I realize that sometimes, it’s better to release, to ship, to try, rather than be perfect at this thing. I still have a difficult time releasing books before they are much closer to done, but I am getting there.

That third point, the idea about showing your work, is about success, not perfection.

I know that I need feedback to get to perfection. If I keep my work to myself, I can’t achieve perfection. I certainly can’t achieve success.

Sometimes, success is all you need. You don’t even need perfection.

Here’s the problem. When you show your work, you need to have enough self-esteem to manage the feedback. That can be tricky.

I’m (still) working on the program management book feedback from my alpha reviewers. I had some client work that prevented me from finishing it earlier. When I do finish incorporating that feedback, I will be able to release the book. The book will be beta quality. I can release it because success is releasing it. It won’t be perfect—it may never be perfect. But it can’t be perfect if it only sits in preview mode, not release mode.

The same thing happens with you and your work.

If you hang onto your work (code, tests, plans, whatever) and never show them to people, you can’t get the feedback. Without feedback, you can’t improve to be great. You’ll be wherever you are. And, other people won’t have the benefit of your thoughts (code, tests, plans, whatever).

Showing your work is not about perfection. It’s about success. Letting your work go into the world is a form of success. The more often you practice it, the better you can be.

I manage the risks of showing my work. I have a developmental editor for my books, reviewers, and a copyeditor. I spend significant effort to make sure I have the best product I can have, wherever it is in its development. But I show my work.

You can, too. What do you need to do to show your work more often? How can you adapt to the feedback? The more you practice taking feedback, the more you can learn how to take it.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question this week: Are You Looking for Success or Perfection? Maybe success is its own perfection.

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