You’re never going to get that perfect idea on paper. It may be better or worse, but it will be different. With that thought, try getting started. Tell yourself that if it really is that bad, it never has to see the light of day.
Many successful people are perfectionists. At the same time, they have the ability to say “Done is Better Than Perfect” and just complete and wrap up a project. What is the best way to overcome the stalling and procrastination that perfectionism causes? How does one overcome the fear of potential critique or the fear of not being successful? In this interview series, called “How To Get Past Your Perfectionism And ‘Just Do It’, we are interviewing successful leaders who can share stories and lessons from their experience about “how to overcome the hesitation caused by perfectionism.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Wallington.
Ben Wallington is the CEO and founder of Designerwear. He started his ecommerce journey at a very young age, selling on eBay when he was only 14. His entrepreneurial spirit is largely encouraged by his family, who are in a similar line of work. His mantra is this- “Be on the constant lookout for opportunities, sometimes they come dressed as problems”.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course. I grew up in a family that encouraged entrepreneurship from a very young age. They led by example. I garnered a strong interest in being self-employed and started selling on eBay at the age of 14. I was taught to not be defeated by failure. This early experience in marketing and selling products on a platform with high competition taught me so much. I soon had the courage to go off third-party platforms at the age of 19.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite one is ‘opportunities are often dressed as problems’. Simple advice, life-changing. It forces you to look at everything twice, to not be so apprehensive about hurdles and to be calm under pressure, because hey, it might just turn out to be exactly what you’re looking for.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The 4-hour work week. I don’t necessarily follow it to the T, but his advice on productivity and prioritizing tasks was life-changing. It taught me that I don’t have to do everything to make sure it’s done perfectly, and that it is definitely okay to delegate tasks.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Creativity. You have to look at life differently in order to really make a difference. Innovation is a must, whether it’s about your products/services or the way your team is run.
Patience. Too often we find ourselves expecting great things right after implementing our ‘next big idea’. Your idea may be great, but there are a lot of great ideas out there. I don’t think one big idea makes a difference, really. Patience does. Small, humble ideas sown into your business that are given time to grow makes more of a difference.
Courage. Sometimes things are going to look really, really bad. If you give up at the first sign of trouble, you rob yourself the chance of ever creating something amazing. Stay solid.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly is a perfectionist? Can you explain?
A perfectionist is any one who expects the very best output every time he gets to work. It could be writing an email or something bigger. Being a perfectionist isn’t bad, but it takes away some of your ability to be flexible and treat yourself like a human and not an algorithm.
The premise of this interview series is making the assumption that being a perfectionist is not a positive thing. But presumably, seeking perfection can’t be entirely bad. What are the positive aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
What are the negative aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
You turn into a control freak. All of a sudden, you have to be the person doing the task. If any one else is doing it, they’re doing it wrong. Also, even when it comes to doing it yourself, you put it off constantly, because you’ve now created this insane pressure on yourself.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common reasons that cause a perfectionist to “get stuck” and not move forward? Can you explain?
Expecting perfect results. Maybe you’re an artist and you have this beautiful image in your head. And you want to sit down and get it on paper, but you keep thinking that there’s no way you’d get it to look that good. Or you’re a writer and you have this idea, but instead of putting pen to paper, you just sit around waiting for the perfect variables to fall into place. And what happens is because of this, your idea remains just that, an idea. It never manifests into something real or ever starts existing, which was the whole point in the first place.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are the five things a perfectionist needs to know to get past their perfectionism and “just do it?” Please share a story or example for each.
- You’re never going to get that perfect idea on paper. It may be better or worse, but it will be different. With that thought, try getting started. Tell yourself that if it really is that bad, it never has to see the light of day.
- Tackle big projects in sections. I break the job down into segments, this gives me a reality check on what I really need to do and allows me to look at things objectively. This way, I’m left with an actionable plan, instead of one huge ‘perfect’ project looming up on me. It just takes away this vague goal and knocks some sense into it. If I have to select a team for my marketing purposes and I get obsessive about choosing one that matches the company’s values and expectations, I break it down. My first task is looking at all my options, the second one is having a conversation with each, and like this, before I know it, I’ve come to a conclusion about who is a ‘perfect’ fit for our company.
- Ask someone to make sure that you see the task through. This makes you accountable. It makes it harder for you to procrastinate.
- Set timers. If you need to write an email, set a timer for 15 minutes and give yourself only that period of time to do it.
- Do it immediately. There is not ‘perfect’ time to do it. Get it done now, and go over it later if you are satisfied with your output. Getting round to making corrections is infinitely easier, and perfectionists like fixing things anyway.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Self-acceptance and an actionable way to start practicing. We’re all running a 100 miles an hour every day. It’s okay to stop sometimes. Age-old advice, but we need it now more than ever.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Tim Ferris. I’d love to pick his brain.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can reach out to me on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!