Paralysis through Perfectionism 

a rustic image of a bearded barber, with a blurred, brown hipster setting in the background, symbolising innovation and entrepreneurship in opening up a small local business

Today’s topic is one that affects so many entrepreneurs out there: getting into a state of paralysis through perfectionism. The amount of people that don’t jump into the market and hold themselves back because what they want to pursue needs to be ‘perfect’ in order to start, is staggering.

But the reality is, if you want to be ‘perfect’ right from the start – it takes a hell of a lot of money, and experience. And this experience is certainly not something you’re going to have if you don’t start. It’s a bit of a Catch-22.

an image of a dart board with a bullseye shot - yellow and green board, representing perfectionism



It’s Impossible to be Perfect

That’s the reason that it can feel like an impossibility to start. Because it is impossible to start if you’re waiting for things to be ‘perfect’ to do it.

Sometimes the only way some people can overcome that paralysis, is through spending a huge amount of money.

And if you spend too much money early on, it will, in my experience, T you up for failure in itself.

coloured picture of a man with golfing shoes, just after hitting the golf ball, representing just launching into business


Gaining Experience

When you launch and get your teeth into things – get into the market and start getting feedback – you educate yourself, gain experience, and adjust and grow through that feedback.

This is actually the route to ultimate ‘perfectionism,’ if you will. The constant demand and willingness to adapt and change as things come your way and you learn new things.

a pair of hands holding a sapling growing from the dirt help, changing and growing with goals

The thing is: as you progress, your ambitions and your goals progress and change, too. So that space of being ‘perfect’ is never actually attained, as you are constantly evolving and changing.

Knowing this and bearing it in mind helps combat that idea of making sure things are ‘perfect’ before you get started.

baby green sapling, shooting from the ground, bright colours - symbolising growth in humans


Always Evolving

So don’t fall into that space of wanting or needing things to be completely perfect and ready before you start.

Just start.

Your ducks don’t all have to be in a row.

cute photograph of duck lined up looking at the camera - in sailer outfits and such others. Pertaining to the idion "to have ones ducks lines up in a row" meaning to set everything up perfectly to begin in business.

You can throw yourself in a little, enjoy the experience and gain knowledge from learning and getting to know the ropes through a little bit of trial and error. Try to be a bit looser.

Sometimes creativity and inspiration comes in those looser, freer moments. Where we go at things with wild abandon.



Starting IS Improving

a slow focused photograph of a man in a blue shirt sitting at a desk, writing in a notepad

The key thing here is realising: starting is how you continue to improve, and will eventually lead towards that ‘perfect’ place.

I spent a year interviewing two or three entrepreneurs every week, which is the guts of 100 entrepreneurs in a year. What I learned was that the really successful ones got things to ‘wherever they needed to be’ and then got going. They didn’t wait until everything was built already. They built as they went along. Good enough? Ok, let’s go.

Some of them had the most unbelievably efficient, raw or lean roots to getting started.


Starting from ‘Nothing’

a close up of a man giving a haircut - an entrepreneur starting a small business at home

For example, I was doing an episode of my podcast with a guy called Seany B. He’s a highly successful entrepreneur, running several barbershops in Dublin, now.

And how did Sean start? He didn’t wait until he had a salon furnished with a €40,000 bank loan. No, he just jumped right in and started doing haircuts in his Mam’s kitchen.

Now, I think that’s an amazing move to make. It is the guts of entrepreneurialism in action. As I’ve said before, there is huge potential – not to mention learning scope – in starting off with a small idea. Really small: like starting off your salon in your Mam’s gaf…

Why not?

a rustic image of a bearded barber, with a blurred, brown hipster setting in the background, symbolising innovation and entrepreneurship in opening up a small local business


The Bones of an Idea

I spoke to a yoga teacher the other day who started by doing one-to-one callouts to people’s homes and practicing with them in their living rooms.

Now, he runs a bunch of yoga studios (info, relevant?)

Again, this is another example of a lean way to getting starting. Not starting with all the padding on the outside – the cash and the fluff. But the idea. The bones of an idea that has the potential to grow into something bigger if you just start.


It Doesn’t Have to be ‘Fancy’ to ‘Work’

funny picture of a black chihuahua with a frilly polka dot hat with red frills - talking about small, and simple ideas in business

There are an exponential amount of highly efficient and lean ways of getting started in business. Things that don’t require things like a website, graphic design, or a fancy name, etc. Now, all of that to undertake itself is really challenging. But it has its place and that’s quite far down the line.

Getting started, getting into the market and getting going – that’s the important thing.

Of course there are loads of challenges with this, and also with much more sophisticated ideas.

But it really is one of the major lessons I’ve learned in being an entrepreneur; the value of starting out small. Because if you wait until things are perfectly lined up, you’re likely to experience paralysis through perfectionism. And as a result, never get started at all. A picture of a woman at a flower stall in Asia, s small business that has a place in a larger order. Starting out with a small idea.

This just ‘get-going’ mindset is one of the tools I’ve used in order to combat paralysis through perfectionism.

It’s like that well-known phrase; if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly

Now, I’m not suggesting a bad work ethic is good overall. But if you’re paralysed through perfectionism, sometimes it’s good to look at things in a way where even if it’s not perfect, done is better than perfect.

You can listen to my podcast The University of Life here.