Everybody wants to learn & grow. Paradoxically, some of our best learning and growing happens when we try something and fail. But nobody wants to fail. This is a problem. I can remember many of my failures exquisitely:
Striking out four times in my first little league baseball game. That’s hard to do.
Deciding to throw my name in the ring for my dream job in California when I was 30. After a dozen interviews and four months, it got down to me and the other guy. They picked the other guy.
Moving 700 miles away to work at a job that wasn’t a good fit for me, then quitting after 13 months and moving into my parents’ basement – with my wife – as a 32-year-old.
In order to avoid failure, we hedge our bets. We stop going for it. When we have something to offer, we tweak and tinker. We smooth out the rough edges. We wait until it’s perfect before we show it to anybody, which means that most of the time, nobody ever sees it.
I’m not sure where I heard them first – maybe it was Seth Godin – but these three words have broken me out of the prison of perfectionism:
Try. Fail. Learn.
You have a gift to give to the world, and the world needs it. But if you wait until it’s perfectly ready, or if you don’t go for it because they might not connect with it, or you, you stop learning and growing and everybody loses.
I make my living in part by speaking. I used to painstakingly write a full manuscript for every talk. About three years ago, I felt a strong invitation to leave my script behind and trust that what I prepared, and what was in me, was enough. I was terrified to do this because I love words. I love watching them dance and flow together. The problem was that by relying on a script, I was holding back something vital and raw. The script helped me to be more polished, but the price was that I connected with people less.
So one day I didn’t use a script. I had rudimentary notes plastered to the floor of the stage. A few weeks later, I got up there without any notes at all.
I was terrified that I’d free fall and embarrass myself and everybody would politely ask me to please bring my script back next time.
I haven’t used notes for three years.
My talks now are less polished. But something comes out of me that is pure and raw and more me than I had ever been before, and it connects.
So try. If you fail, learn. Nobody trusts perfect anyway.