My Struggle to be Perfect. At Everything.

I have been thinking alot about perfectionism lately.

I have been a hard driving professional for a long time. I practice law in a community that is very competitive, and I compete. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I got the idea that it did not matter what I did, how hard I worked, how much I learned along the way, that I would never be good enough. Not only have I practiced law full time, I also pursued many other interests. I founded an internet startup (which never completely started — long story); I emerged as a photographer and pursued international photojournalism projects; I fixed and flipped houses and invested in real estate. In my law practice, I have defended complex civil cases and individuals accused of serious felonies. I went to trial and won.

What is strange about this idea is how it persists even though by all objective standards I have been pretty successful — I have been self-employed for several years, employed many people, made a decent living, had the time and money to pursue creative projects, helped alot of people and had challenging and interesting work.

I started thinking about perfectionism lately due to the disconnect between all this good stuff, and how I feel about work. I am beginning to realize that I am often tense about how I do my job. I am driven to want to do everything perfectly all the time, never make a mistake, figure out the problem. Win. The. Case.

This level of intensity is not sustainable. It effect more than simply work. It effects my personal life, my creative life.

When I began photographing 20+ years ago, I showed my work in different countries. I was invited to photograph people in other countries. I boldly pursued this and put my work out there. But then, I stopped. I continued making work, but I stopped trying to show it. I kept thinking — “no, the owrk is not good enough. It’s not ready yet. Someday it will be and when it is, then I’ll show it.”

Eventually I stopped showing it altogether. Then I almost completely stopped making it. Not completely, but almost. The outflow constricted to a trickle.

I came down with a strong sense of “someday syndrome.” Someday I’ll finish this project or that project, and then I’ll put it out into the world. But someday never came. Because I was waiting for it to be perfect.

I recently started the Roamhowl podcast. I now spend a fair amount of time making episodes, but I am trying to not overthink or plan them. I am trying to have them be a spontaneous, improvisational experiment, a series of unedited unrehearsed conversations and mini-monologues. I am trying to take the advice I have been given and release them as unrefined organic creatures.

Someone told me that in the beginning, your podcasts should be “cringeworthy.” Well, mine are. They are far from perfect and when I listen to myself, I often cringe.

But the feedback I am getting is so positive in the sense that listeners tell me that in this chaos, they are feeling inspired, educated and even entertained.

That is so cool. That makes me very happy. That shows me that I can create good things, without being perfect, without them being perfect, and everything will still turn out Okay. Maybe even better that just Okay.

By doing the Roamhowl project, I feel satisfied in a way that I haven’t felt satisfied creatively in a really long time. And I think that is partly becuase I feel joy I feel in creating something positive and releasing it into the world without it being all perfect.

So for me the takeaway from all of this is that if you are on the fence about your next move — whether it be in business or art or whatever the next hing is that you want to try, don’t wait. Especially if you are afraid about how it will turn out or what will happen next, I dare you to do it anyway, to be imperfect, to stand in your fear, to do it anyway, and see what magic happens.

(Listen toEpisode № 11 of the Roamhowl Podcast, where you can sign up to receive email alerts of new episodes as they are released.)