The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make it, build it, ship it, upload it, or share it. Just do your best and get it done. And keep going. As a recovering control freak and perfectionist, I’m working hard to finish more projects and cross them off my to-do list, even if they’re not perfect. 


“The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good” is one of my all-time favorite quotes. As a recovering control freak and perfectionist, I’m working hard to finish more projects and cross them off my to-do list, even if they’re not perfect. 

2019 was a tough year for me. I lost my beloved father in February – one of the worst times of my life. I miss him dearly. My girlfriend lost her step-father in November, and my sister’s husband lost his mother in October. Lots of tears and sadness. I spent more hours in hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes in 2019 than I care to count. 

I feel like 2019 was the “Year of Loss.” It was also the year of starting and stopping many projects, with very few reaching the point of completion. Granted, I went to Colombia in June and to Belize in December with my girlfriend, finished building the railings on our new backyard deck, and spoke to 250 people at Jeff Goins’ Tribe Conference about mindfulness and creativity in September. So yeah, there are those things in the “completed” category for the year.   

I made a list of all the projects I was working on in the fall of 2019, and I was able to count ten. Ten projects! Each was a work in progress. Some were at or near the starting line, some were close to the finish line, but most were somewhere in the middle, in the vast open expanse of limbo.

With so many projects on my plate, I was frustrated and embarrassed. I frequently felt overwhelmed and confused, which is quite unusual for me. It felt like if I took any steps to move a particular project forward, the energy I spent on that project would come at the expense of neglecting the other projects. I would start and stop and start and stop, and then turn my attention and energy to another project. It was slow going at times, but I never stopped moving forward and trying my best. 

My audiobook project received a huge investment of my time and attention throughout the year. It was like running a marathon. I’m happy to report that I finished it a few weeks ago, and it should be available on Audible and many other digital outlets and libraries worldwide any day now. More about that below.

As I mentioned in my manifesto, “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good:”

“A few years ago, I finally realized my procrastinating tendencies were rooted primarily in my need for control and my desire to do things perfectly. I put off starting something or doing something if I wasn’t exactly sure of how it was going to turn out, or if I didn’t know how to do it perfectly. Fear of failure and imperfection kept me stuck in a rut of inaction, doubt, and insecurity. Sure, I wasn’t making any mistakes, but nothing was getting done.” 

Inaction, doubt, and insecurity were the main ingredients in my terrible recipe for Failure Cake. With 2019 in the rearview mirror, I’m committed to making 2020 the “Year of Completion.” My goal is to complete one exciting project and then move on to the next one. I’m not going to make any of them “perfect”… I’ll be happy with making them “very good” and shipping them, sharing them, uploading them, or whatever. I’m going to take action and build the plane while I’m flying it. 

Here are a few projects I’m focusing on right now and plan to share with you and the world over the coming months:

    • The audiobook version of Passport Forward will be available worldwide in the next week or so. You can hear my Preface here and the Retail Sample (sneak peek) here. Once the audiobook goes live, I’ll start running another marathon of sorts as I move deeper into the marketing/promoting phase of the project.
    • The Courier-Journal (Kentucky’s largest newspaper) invited me to speak to 350 attendees at the Storytellers project on April 8th at the Muhammad Ali Center. The theme is “Travel: What a Trip,” and I’ll tell the story about my epic day of trekking in the Himalayas where I arrived at the 16,300-foot pass an hour after sunset and experienced hallucinations and numbness while climbing. Yeah, what a trip! If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you in the audience.
    • My good friend and super-talented counselor Henry Lucas and I will be launching our new “Maximize Your Life” 8-week course. We’ll co-create a community of great people who are up-leveling their lives and moving beyond regrets, routine, and excuses to open up more space for something (or someone) new. Overcoming limitations, building sustaining habits, chasing dreams, and having fun are on the menu. Stay tuned for more details.
    • My friend Tracy hosts small-group cooking classes at her historic home in Fort Worth, TX, sharing healthy eating habits and delicious food in an intimate setting with her guests. Tracy and I will be presenting several weekend retreats combining mindfulness, meditation, and cooking classes. The first one will be April 24-26. The menu will include quiet, stillness, community, tasty treats, and more confidence in the kitchen. Think Zen Monk meets Culinary Badass. If you’re interested, just let me know and I’ll get you the details.

Will any of the above new projects be perfect? I can guarantee you they won’t be. But I’ll step through my fear of failure, push through my tendency to procrastinate, and give each one my best shot. And then I’ll keep going.

So I ask you, how often do you feel stuck because you’re striving for perfection instead of “good enough?” Do you often beat yourself up for procrastinating or for jumping from one project to another without completing anything? What’s one project you want to complete in 2020? What (or who) is standing in your way? Leave a comment below or send me an email.

You don’t need to make anything perfect. Just make it, build it, ship it, upload it, or share it. Just do your best and get it done. And keep going.

Remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Here’s to making 2020 the year of getting stuff done. 

Begin well and do not fear the end.

Lex

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