Stop holding yourself to perfection and start living

Jul 27, 2017

Working towards perfection boxes us in, and prevents us from living our true potential. An old shoe may be imperfect, but tells the story of a great life.


In many respects, I’ve always worked for perfection – I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. Ok, was a perfectionist – now rehabilitated, I’m glad to say.


For many years, I would fastidiously look after my things, and get upset if say a guitar gets scratched. Things with me had to be a certain way, close to perfection. I expected that of myself. I delivered my work with that same attitude.


In my work as a corporate lawyer, a job I did for 20 years, I was rewarded for “perfection” or as close to it as we could get. Errors were not acceptable because we were paid to “cross the Ts and dot the Is” and particularly in corporate transactions, any mistake could cost millions of dollars, years down the road.


So, that only reinforced my need to constantly strive for perfection – to have things just right.


Striving for perfection boxed me in


Something inside me wanted to venture out of my little world of corporate law. But just didn’t know how. That perfectionist trap made me increasingly risk adverse. In fact, with each year that passed, the consequence of making mistakes became greater, as I could lose a job with a higher salary. My universe of acceptable risks thus became smaller and smaller.


Back to the guitar analogy. One day I accidentally scratched a guitar that was the first guitar that my wife bought for me when we were dating. I was really upset with myself, because it was no longer perfect. I brought it around to various shops looking for someone who would fix it. I also noticed at the shops, and among my guitarist friends, that people didn’t like their instruments all perfect. In fact, they liked their instruments a little damaged, or in guitar parlance “reliced”.


What they said was that every scratch, and every crack told a story. That the instrument reflected their lives, being knocked about, dinged and scratched. But always surviving to tell the story, to sing the song.


This might be something that’s blindingly obvious to everyone else, but to me that was a revelation! In the rest of the world, people took risks all the time!  Perfection wasn’t required!  The reason I continued to be stuck in a legal job was that I needed everything to be perfect, and continuing to be in that job meant that I would never venture out on my own.


How I came into my imperfect business


I came into this online business, not with the intent of starting an online business, but because my wife wanted me to sell a couple of guitars online, and I needed to learn how to.


I soon found that the world of online businesses was no longer exclusive to the computer whiz kids, and silicon valley. In fact learning to sell a guitar online would mean that I could learn to sell anything online. As I learnt, there are ample opportunities where ordinary people who aren’t computer whizzes, can learn to make a very good living online, and do so while continuing to be in a job.


One of the big mindset changes that I needed to make, was the expectation of perfection. I was learning something completely new. I was overwhelmed a lot of the time, and would therefore be making a lot of mistakes.


Thankfully the course I signed up for, not only taught me what I needed to do to sell things online, they had coaches that worked with me on the mindset shift that was required.


The first scratch on that guitar now tells a story. Not just a story of an accidental scratch, but the story of how my life changed the moment I accepted that things aren’t perfect. The moment I accepted that, I allowed myself to make mistakes. And it was only through allowing myself these little imperfections that I learnt.


As I fumbled my way through the early stages of my online business, my mentor Stuart Ross often said, “Don’t worry Tim, you can’t break the internet!” And after fumbling for half a year, taking “risks” of being imperfect that I would never have taken as a lawyer, I fully replaced my lawyer’s income, an income that took me over 20 years of striving for perfection to build to.


Leaving perfection behind – the story of our imperfect lives


Every scratch, every ding in life could get us down, or could tell a story. If we allow them to tell our story, we could become a beautiful collection of scratches and dings – a story completely unique to us, and an inspiration to all those around us.


In my own life, everything has become better because I allowed myself to be imperfect. I now have the time and financial freedom to do the things that are important to me. A luxury I never had before allowing myself to take the risk of starting and fumbling through my online business.


Like that old shoe, my life is no longer the perfect story – but it certainly has become a better story.  Write your own better story today.


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