We all know the excitement of planning. It allows you to create the perfect set of circumstances for the realization of your idea. And that idea – whether your book, a product, or change in career direction – could, without hyperbole, change the world. The planning stage is exciting and ripe with possibility.
As a professional, you need to cultivate excellence as an important habit.
Yet big ideas also come with big fears. The fear of failure. The fear you might not make it. The fear of humiliation. Before you can even get started, you’ve convinced yourself that it will never work and hedged yourself off at that pass.
If this is you, you’re not alone.
Atichyphobia, or fear of failure, is often recognized as one of the leading reasons people can feel stuck. Theo Tsaousides Ph.D. , in his article Why Fear of Failure Can Keep You Stuck, explains that this fear is “the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reaction to the negative consequences you anticipate for failing to achieve a goal. It is the intense worry, the negative thinking, and the reluctance to take action you experience, when you imagine all the horrible things that could happen if you failed to achieve a goal.”
Take Michael, for example, who fantasizes about leaping from his job and becoming a speaker on a subject he knows quite a bit about. What he doesn’t know anything about is public speaking. So he decides that, as he doesn’t have what it takes to be a public speaker, it’s best that he never try.
He keeps himself safe.
Perfectionism – masquerading as a perfectly rational response – has caused Michael to put on the brakes. By convincing himself that perfection – in this case, knowing everything before he gets started – is the only way to make a difference, he’s stopped before he can be ‘proven wrong’.
He’s also stopped himself from doing anything at all.
The perfectionist mentality traps us into rationalizing inaction.
So does this mean that you should never plan, and instead jump blindly forwards?
Of course not.
Yet in these times, solid 10-year business plans are no longer useful or productive as a business tool. The world is more fluid and fast-paced, and the smart entrepreneur knows that it’s a waste of time to try to predict what might happen so far in the future. In fact, it’s a waste of time that could be spent on something more productive.
Too much planning and too little testing leads to perfection and business paralysis.
How do we fight this?
First of all, we must acknowledge that perfection is an ideal. While striving for excellence is a powerful motivator, you must channel your drive to perfect into productive, rewarding action.
You can use your high standards as the impetus to improve.
But in order to improve upon what you’ve done, you must first have your initial concept to test.
Whether you’re rebranding your business or personal identity as an author, artist, or thought leader, stop yourself from over-planning without testing. For instance, if you’re conceiving for months a new endeavor to be an executive coach, but you’re not actually coaching executives, figure out a low-stakes way to test yourself and your methods to coach an executive.
Then improve your game.
If you’re conceiving a new business model for organizational consulting, but you’ve not actually test-driven that model, figure out a low-stakes way to test-drive the model sooner than later.
Then improve the approach.
If your website design team is developing a new custom template for customers, test drive it on clients behind the scenes to gather data and input.
Then improve it.
Prototyping, not perfection
When it comes to creating the most conducive environment for your plan to grow in, it’s vital to create an experimental environment. To thrive, high-performing creatives surround themselves with people who are forgiving of error, clear in feedback, and agile enough to change course.
So, what if you landed an ideal client this week? What if you tasted and tested a way to translate your talents or expertise into a way to earn a return beyond trading dollars for hours?
Those things don’t happen just by thinking about them and planning for years. They happen by prototyping.
If perfectionism is the act of stopping yourself before you get started, then prototyping is the antidote. The power of prototyping is that it allows you to take something – something which might be good or even very good – and make it better.
And in the meantime, you also get to learn more about your business, your direction, and what works for you and what doesn’t. Whether you’re a business of one, or you work with other people, reaching out can allow you to talk about your mutual understanding of being able to take risks, make mistakes, and move on. And by all means, surround yourself with a few smart, open-minded, whole-hearted collaborators who get what it means to experiment in our times.
Prototype Like A Scientist
When we prototype over and over again, it allows you to scale your dream to size. You can lean into the failure, learn from the public acting, and gather vital data. Then you can learn, and recalibrate your actions accordingly.
And rather than feeling the fear and anxiety of failure every time, here’s what I’ve discovered: I test so much and so frequently that when something doesn’t turn out as planned, I’m less attached.
I no longer think of something not working as “failure”, but instead as gathering data, which produces valuable, concrete results. Whether I’m looking at branding or the advancement of an idea or project, I look with wonder and an experimental mindset and ask myself:
“What simple action could I take to start gathering information instead of staying stuck in mind games?”
“How could I create a smaller version of what I want to create to test the whole process?”
Start by acknowledging your assumptions of what you think will work or be valuable allows you to test the theory more fully. Then test to gather input. Then make sense of that input. Then respond accordingly.
If something works, then fantastic. But if something doesn’t work, you’ve gathered useful data.
Data Gathering, not Failure
Of course, I’ve “failed” in my professional and creative life. I’ve produced work only to have it rejected. Launches have fallen short of the mark, or talks I’ve given haven’t reached their target. I’ve even worked extensively on big ideas for months, only to recognize that it was time to pull the plug.
Yet I consider none of those efforts failures.
What I’ve done is gather data. I’ve approached my methods with questions and curiosity. I’ve recognized that the power of the work is in the act of doing the work, and I’ve improved myself and my workflow. After all, you might find a thousand directions that don’t work for you, but you’ll be able to take all the knowledge that you’ve gathered when you find the path that leads where you want to go.
So what are you waiting for?
Imagine building your flexible, agile, and evolving brand or business in an environment where you are encouraged to test stuff out and fail, a Lab of sorts.
I’ve been absorbing what many in our community say they want and need. Many people have requested I host live intimate events where people in the Tracking Wonder Community and clients can come together, learn from one another, and get hands-on and one-of-a-kind experiences.
Hence, the birth of the Brand Artistry Labs: 4-day intimate immersions to Create, Experiment, Collaborate, and Earn. Captivate Ideal Clients, Grow an Engaged Community, and Earn a Great Return in Your Heart & Bottom Line
Learn more here.