This is the very first article I’ve published on here, and there’s a reason for that. At 9.37pm today, I gave myself a challenge:
Write an entire article in 1 hour.
I, like a tonne of other people, have a serious issue with perfectionist thinking. I procrastinate working on my goals, I put off taking that first step, because I obsess about whether or not I can do a perfect job of something… instead of just doing it. I look at the long road ahead of me, the amount of steps between where I am now and where I want to be, and I worry I’ll never get there. So instead of getting started, I end up doing nothing at all.
I’ve done this a tonne in the past. I wanted to do a 365 Photography Project (taking a photo every single day for 365 days in a row), but put it off for months because I was paranoid my photos weren’t quite good enough yet.
I put off going to the gym for years, instead opting to buy a home gym and muck around for a year, making no progress. I was worried I was too weak to step foot in the gym, worried I wouldn’t know how to do the exercises, worried I’d do a bad job. And then when I finally did go to the gym, I put off hiring a weightlifting coach for another year – again, because I was worried I’d do a bad job choosing a coach.
I put off talking to girls for seven months after finishing an “approach anxiety program” because I was terrified I’d do a poor job of literally just talking to other human beings.
I put off getting a tattoo for over a year, because I was terrified I’d never find the “perfect” design, or find the “perfect” tattoo artists.
I put off losing weight for ages before finally diving in, because I was obsessed with researching the “perfect” weight loss diet, researching the “perfect” gym program, figuring out which was the “perfect” calorie-counting app, etc… Spinning my wheels instead of, you know, actually losing weight.
Pretty much every big goal I’ve ever achieved was preluded by days/weeks/months of procrastination, because I was obsessing about perfection rather than just starting.
So how’d I stop the procrastination and end up achieving things?
By giving myself permission to suck.
With my photography, I just sat down one day, and said “Ok. Today is Day 1 of my 365 project. I’m going to be awful, my photos will suck for a while, but if I don’t start now I’ll never start.”
With girls, I told myself “I’m going to be awful at talking to girls. I’ll be nervous, anxious, I’ll probably throw up out of nervousness, I’ll forget what to say, I’ll stumble and lose my words, I’ll look like a complete creep and I’ll make a total fool of myself. No girls will like me and I’ll be a total failure. But that’s ok. I’m allowed to be shit at this, because everybody is shit when they’re first getting started.”
With the gym I told myself “I’ll be the weakest guy in here, there’s no doubt about that. I don’t know how to do the exercises, I might even injure myself, but all that is fine. I’m allowed to be awful at this, because everybody is at the start.” And the tattoo – today I went in and booked a session to finally get a tattoo done next week.
Even writing articles for this site. I’ve put off making my own site for ages (months and months, maybe even a year) because I wanted my first article to be perfect. I have hundreds of ideas for articles, guides, rants, etc… but every time I start typing, I get in my own way and worry “this won’t be good enough, you can’t release this, it’s not perfect.” I worry what I’ve written isn’t good enough, isn’t long enough, is too long, doesn’t have enough pictures, has too many pictures, isn’t concise enough, is too verbose, has too many spelling errors, etc. I worry about what “direction” this site should have, what “voice” I should give my writing, what topics I should cover, how in-depth my guides should be, etc.
I had to set a goal of writing 10 articles in 1 month, otherwise I’d never start. (This is the first article). And I’ve had to tell myself “It’s ok if this isn’t your best work. It’s ok if you could have done better. Just start writing, start posting, and you’ll improve over time.”
It’s funny, because I can easily give that advice to other people. I tell mates who’ve just started hitting on girls, ‘It doesn’t matter how terrible you are at this – it’s ok to be awful. Just start doing it.” I’ve told people who start taking photos for their Tinder profiles, “You’ll be AWFUL at this at first. That’s ok. Just take hundreds, thousands of photos and you’ll eventually take some good ones.”
But like most people, I give great advice to others, but often don’t take the advice myself…
I’m sitting here right now re-reading this article, thinking of 50 things I should add to it, 20 ways I can improve it, all the paragraphs I should cut out and all the ways I should rewrite them. But fuck it. I’m giving myself permission to suck. I’m hitting Publish.
The time is now:
So I succeeded. I wrote this article in (much) less than an hour. If it sucks, I don’t care.
At least now I’ve finally gotten started.
UPDATE 2021: Here’s a follow-up to this article: