You Suck Less Than You Think – 5 Hacks To Avoid Mediocrity
I often struggle with being a little too self-critical, especially when it comes to business. I’m not talking about the fake answer we all give to a “Name your faults” question in an interview where you give the pre-planned jargon about working too hard and being TOO much of a perfectionist. No, I’m talking about a more consistent fear of putting out content, products, and services that I don’t feel are really good enough. A dehabilitating fear that can keep me from being great and leave me wallowing in the pits of the mediocre.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot the last week or so and, in reading the many emails we’ve received in the last few months, realize that I’m not alone. I think this problem (or some variation of it) is what keeps people from getting started on projects, constantly questioning the viability or the details without just jumping in, focusing on minute details that keep them from actually starting, etc. If you’re on the fence about starting something new (or scary) or are worried so badly about the potential outcome that you are struggling to get started, I wanted to give you a few tips and strategies that have helped me and may help you take those first few steps to realizing that you probably don’t suck as bad as you think you do!
1. Obvious To You, Amazing To Others
I first came across this concept in a post Derek Sivers wrote, that states how easy it is to look at someone else’s work and think it’s genius, but that person you think is a genius might think their work is just average…or even worse. Here’s a time lapse painting from Picasso, considered one of the best painters ever. Notice how many changes he made from start to finish to create this masterpiece.
Recently, we’ve just launched the AdSense Flippers Podcast (available on iTunes as well!) and it’s been a pretty nervewracking start for me. I actually prefer speaking live in front of an audience to being recorded, as strange as that sounds, so there were some difficulties to get through. Not to mention the fact that we’re insanely impressed with the LifestyleBusinessPodcast and their overall quality. David, a friend of ours, was nice enough to point out that we shouldn’t be comparing our first episode to their 78th and he urged and invited us to go back to listen to their first few episodes. Wow…what a difference! I was amazed at their improvement and quickly realized we actually might not suck as bad as I thought! Still…I was shocked to get this email from Matthias:
“Kick-ass podcast by the way, looking forward to more of them man. Sounds like you guy’s have some broadcast experience, polished product & sweet content.”
Obvious (Average) to us and amazing to others? You bet! (Thanks, Matthias…I thought you were messing with us at first and then realized you made my day, lol)
2. Just Ship It
Guys like Seth Godin talk a lot about just shipping and not waiting or putting it off. Their message? Get. It. Out. If you look at some famous authors like Stephen King you’ll see that that he hits his deadlines and makes sure to ship, ensuring another massive advance on his next project. Or consider Jackson Pollock who says there are no mistakes and he’s not afraid of changes…he’s just “trying to let the painting live”.
Waiting is going to cost you time and that time costs you money. Putting your product or service out there, even if it’s not what you would consider quite ready, is the best way to really test the market and see if what you’re offering is something you should pursue. Let’s say you put it out there and it’s horrible…nobody likes what you’re offering. Wouldn’t you be glad you didn’t spend additional months or years chasing after a dream that, ultimately, people don’t want? Let’s say you put it out and it’s NOT up to snuff and you get tons of emails and feature requests. That’s great! It means people cared enough about what you’re doing or what you’ve built to invest their time and energy to improve it with you. That’s feedback you can’t buy and will lead you to an end product that’s way better than you could have built or dreamt up yourself. An idea never attempted is infinitely worse than failure in the long run.
3. Quantity Vs. Quality? No…Quantity PRODUCES Quality
For a great example of this, consider this interesting pottery class from the book Art And Fear. The instructor tells one half of the class their grade will be measured by the weight of pottery they produced only and the other half of the class that their only responsibility is to create the BEST pot they can possibly make and they will be graded on the quality of that one pot. At the end of the class all of the pots are laid out and people are invited in to review and grade which pots were the best. Overall, the pots that were considered and graded to be the best came from those that were graded in the class on weight and NOT on the quality of their one pot.
Dan and Ian had Sebastian Marshall on one of their recent epsidoes of the LBPodcast and they discussed a scientific study that was done. It turns out that when comparing scientific papers and journals, Einstein didn’t have the most groundbreaking discoveries when compared to his peers. What he did have, however, was an absolutely insane amount of content and research done…so that when looked at in aggregate, Einstein blew the rest away and had more opportunities to be “awesome”. Do that. Give yourself more opportunities to be amazing.
4. Obsessiveness Is Good (When Followed By Action)
I’m the type of person that will go through periods of time completely obsessing over one particular thing or another. I’ve gone through periods where I researched the shit out of random things…from leaked CIA documents related to all kinds of worldwide events (Cuban assassination attempts, Project MKULTRA, etc.) to, more recently, how to record, edit, and produce a podcast that doesn’t suck. It’s somewhat difficult for me to control what my next mini-obsession will be focused on, so it’s best for me to surround myself and my life with subjects where the output or potential for that obsession will positively impact my life or business. From a business perspective, it can be somewhat annoying I’m sure. I’m lucky enough to have a business partner that will let me blather on about whatever it is I’m looking at or researching next and discerning enough to know whether to try to dissuade or encourage. (Or to keep his mouth shut long enough to figure it out which is best!)
The difficult trick becomes turning that research and obsession into output. Pulling actionable bits and pieces from a stream of information and then pulling the trigger and starting the work. Something that really helps me get started is to break down what I need/want to do into very small bite-sized pieces. It’s much easier to start something when you don’t have to look at the big picture. If you have the big picture in mind…forget about it and start with that one, small step that will get the ball running and get you to your goal.
5. Be Risky…It’s Only Your First Version
There are some of you who have lost your jobs and are desperate to find a way to make money online. Others have awfully large goals that may require them to go through quite a bit of pain to achieve them. (Quitting your job, moving away from family and friends, etc.) In some ways those people might have it easier and actually have an enviable position…being forced into action can be quite the positive motivator. For the rest of us that have jobs and a relatively stable financial situation, why not take a stab at it?
When we started the AdSenseFlippers project, we had just lost a major outsourcing client, but the rest of our clients were still pretty stable and providing a liveable income and our work with TryBPO could be considered our “jobs”. We knew there would be some costs involved in getting everything up and running, but we decided to take a leap of faith and see it through. Even if our planned approach didn’t work out as expected, we knew that whatever we learned through the experience would be something we could build on and the next approach or iteration might be the one that would be a breakthrough for our business. Having some financial stability is EXACTLY why you should take a little time and spend a little money to reach for something you really want.
I still struggle with being a bit hard on myself, but keeping the 5 strategies above in mind helps me tremendously. Now, I hand it over to you. What are your fears in taking the next step? What do you struggle with when it comes to getting started? Let us know in the comments below.