Why Progress Has To Get In The Way of Perfection

The problem with perfection is that it robs you of the opportunities life presents that bring you closer to your purpose and your dreams.

I remember thinking, “I could die in this apartment and no one would know until my rent was well past due.” And, honestly, it was true.

That was nearly fifteen years ago, and just a couple weeks after quitting a job in a city where I didn’t know anyone. I had $37 to my name, a thousand-dollar rent payment coming due, no depth in relationships and very little family support.

I wanted a job—a place to belong, but several weeks of sending out hundreds of resumes failed to net even one interview. Turns out, projecting anxious and needy energy wasn’t terribly attractive to hiring managers.

I was scared and inexperienced in a forest of office buildings, highly educated and well dressed professionals. I was lonely, directionless and confused. I didn’t know how to make use of my education or my talents.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience, or know someone who has. The struggle can be overwhelming, exhausting, and easily wear down your self-confidence.

Then, I saw the yellow pages and got inspired by the prospect of meeting new people and learning through their journey.

Cobbling together enough fitness and massage therapy clients (two skills I’d gained along the way) to get my bills paid, I took to the streets, interviewing close to a hundred and fifty people in six months.

I love meeting new people, just not under those conditions. Still, progress had to get in the way of perfection—my life depended on it.

Six months of interviewing netted me two important realizations—one, I could take care of my basic needs (barely, but still); and two, misunderstandings in communication between young and seasoned professionals was robbing both sides of reaching their potential.

So, I set out to build a bridge between young and seasoned professionals.

The only problem was I didn’t know the first thing about starting or running a business. I didn’t know how to write proposals or contracts, nor did I know how to sell my services. I didn’t even know what “services” I was offering.

Honestly, I’m still learning how to best package my services.

What I had going for me was a willingness to sit in the discomfort long enough to let progress get in the way of perfection. Truthfully, looking back, it was a blessing that I didn’t have a sense of “perfect” when it came to running a business. So, I leapt again and again, taking opportunities as they came and doing my best with each one.

Then, somewhere along the way I conjured up an idea of “perfect” and started beating myself up for failing to reach my ideal. Here were a few of them—

“You should have known to keep building a pipeline while you’re doing the work.”

“You should have used the money you were making to keep learning and advancing your skills, instead of putting nearly all of it into savings so it could be ‘saved from taxes.’”

“You should have known to pivot or expand in your content to reflect the needs of a radically changing business landscape.”

Seven-ish years later, all those “shoulds” led me right back to that incredibly dark place of isolation and loneliness.

Thinking I should know how to communicate my value in the new economy, I walled myself off and refused to expose myself to people in business. With a few successes under my belt, I didn’t want anyone to see that I was confused and directionless.

“I should know what I’m doing by now,” rang through my mind without my even knowing it. It was a showstopper in my life and left me more anxious then I care to remember.

Then, I got an email that changed my life. Not right away, but over the course of the next six months, this email created a cascade effect of curiosity that led to me to opportunities I couldn’t have imagined.

Here is the gist of my friend’s email—

“Would you eat at this restaurant?”

It was a Baltimore, Maryland-based restaurant that claimed to serve locally grown, grass-fed beef.

Years of curiosity about the food industry had led me to watching several documentaries, and ultimately adjusting my diet for environmental and nutritional reasons.

My friend’s email sparked a curiosity I could not shake, and left me needing to learn about the farm that restaurant used to source their meats. Ultimately, it led me to the farm where I learned about the appropriate density of cow dung as it relates to the environment and the health of the animal.

The next six months, I traveled around Maryland learning about oyster farming, crab picking, the USDA, the EPA and various elements of the food industry. I also met a farmer who became one of my greatest friends.

Months later, I still didn’t know how to communicate my value, but I sure was having fun learning and meeting new people. And, get this, six months to the date I gave into my curiosity, I landed a contract to help an environmental agency boost engagement.

Not only did I understand their purpose, but I also happened to know a bit about their mission and challenges. I was in the perfect position to help them get the kinds of results they wanted.

After grabbing ahold of that opportunity, I vowed to keep my curiosity alive by doing my very best to follow my instincts. It’s not the easiest process, but I’ve gotta tell ya—learning, building new relationships and sharing are a great deal more fun than stewing in a pit of perfection.

What opportunities are tugging at your heart? What are you curious about? Will you allow yourself the chance to experience the richness that comes from following your natural curiosities?

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

P.S. Get a jumpstart on your 2018 goals by grabbing your Gearing for Greatness session today. Email me at Misti at MistiBurmeister.com to get in on this great opportunity before the prices go up.

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