The price of action

There is a difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection. The first is attainable, gratifying, and healthy. The second is unattainable, frustrating, and neurotic. It is also a terrible waste of time.

– Edwin Bliss

Imperfect progress realized is better than perfection imagined.

A perfectly imagined work of art is useless until it exists outside of your head. And outside of your head it won’t be perfect. That’s the price we pay for bringing things into reality.

A perfectly outlined novel is unreadable until it moves out of the outline and into words, dialogue, conflicts, characters. And in that form, in those many words on a page, it won’t be perfect. Some of the words will be wrong.

We must sacrifice our ideas of perfection to get the work into reality. The price of action is the pain of imperfection, our own imperfection.

Our world isn’t perfect. Our work won’t be perfect.

The solution? (You might not like it.).

Just do it. Whatever it is.

Quit whining. Quit hesitating. Quit preparing. Just do it. Sometimes we really do learn from advertising. Nike is right. So is Yoda. Grab those 5 minutes and put them into action. Imperfect, beautiful, flawed action that will result in imperfect, beautiful, flawed value.

Don’t think too hard about it. Don’t focus on the goals of perfection; instead, just focus on the work you can do today.

We’re not good at assessing our own competencies. That’s part of the reason that taking action is so scary: what if we can’t live up to our own expectations? Most of the time, we can’t. That shakes us up. If I can’t assess my own ability in this area, what do I really know about myself? 

Keep moving forward.

Movement forward is progress. I’m of the belief that you can’t really go backward, even if you try. You can’t unlearn an experience. You can’t keep your mind from percolating, sifting, analyzing, connecting.

Even a movement backward is a movement forward. It’s still movement.

The only thing to watch out for is the temptation to stop moving. You might not go backward, but you can get stuck for a long time.

Keep track of what you do.

If you keep a journal, try logging both your failures and your successes for a week or so. Compare the two categories. Log your movement forward, no matter how small. Perspective matters. Failure teaches. Success follows.

Some things simply aren’t worth it. Even an overwhelming sense of obligation doesn’t change that fact. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter.

Keep moving forward.

Keep writing or sketching or painting or singing or designing or building or speaking or consulting, or whatever it is you need to be doing. Keep taking one small imperfect action after another.