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Give Yourself Permission to Screw Up

Thomas Oppong
May 28, 2016 · 5 min read

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. — George Bernard Shaw

Millions of people are obsessed with perfection. This obsession makes it dificult to make a decision without wasting too much time analysing every detail. Don’t get me wrong, it pays to get things right.

But when you can’t launch an idea, because you don’t have the perfect one yet, or you can’t show your work to the rest of us because you haven’t perfected the product or service yet, something is wrong.

You will make mistakes, hurt others and get hurt. Big ones, little ones, ones you can fix and others you can’t. Seriously. You’re going to mess up at some point no matter how proactive you are — it’s inevitable.

Unless…you do nothing.

Stop chasing perfection. Screwing-up is part of life and success… the more, the better (within reason). Dreams and long-term goals in life and business require risk. It’s hard to achieve something worthwhile when you play it safe. Push the boundaries and be prepared to start over.

Jason Zook explains:

By chasing the perfect anything, you’re essentially riding a Ferris wheel. As soon as you think you’ve reached the end, a new set of ‘problems’ arise and you continue going around in a never-ending circle. Instead of going around and around, focus on creating and trusting the path you create for yourself. The one you won’t be able to see laid out perfectly in front of you.

He further says:

Don’t worry about finishing a task in the perfect way, worry about finishing the task. The pursuit of perfection most often only leads to procrastination and avoidance.

Done is better than perfect

The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists. It rewards people who get things done. Give yourself time in your life to wonder what’s possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.

You will screw up in the process but it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for making a mistake or making a wrong choice. It will only lead to self destructive behavior.

It’s okay to screw up as long as you are willing to try again. Non- comformists and originals screw up a lot. But they move on, knowing that at some point, the breakthrough will happne. No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.

We learn, grow and shift

Our minds are a bit funny, full of cognitive biases that have been shaped overtime by experiences, events, and memories. Over time, your beliefs can cause your brains to draw false conclusions about life that affects the way you think, and the decisions you make.

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.” — Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

You don’t always need the perfect plan. Sometimes you just need to give it a try, let go, and see what happens. That’s courage. Action begets outcome. Outcome begets action. Rinse, lather and repeat and you have momentum. You’ll become unstoppable.

You have more than one shot to create the life you want

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. –Amelia Earhart

I have screwed up many, many times in the past, but I have moved on. You’re going to make your own, and that’s okay so long as you learn from them and figure out a different path towards the same goal.

The biggest screw up you can make is to just give up and accept that you can’t succeed because of you who you are or where you come from. If you are going through hell, don’t stop. And if you catch hell, don’t hold it.

Give yourself permission to start over

“Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.” — Robert Kiyosaki

When you follow your own true north you create new opportunities, have different experiences and create a different life.

Make no mistake. The world is waiting for you. Waiting for you to stop asking for permission. Waiting for you to pick yourself up and start over. To stop questioning yourself. Waiting for you to start again. Waiting for you to share your ideas and creativity. You are the only one who can push yourself that further to just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it matters that you start.

Screwing up does not mean you will never, ever be successful. Trying and failing is better than doing nothing. Making a mistake will not irreparably damage your credibility or reputation.

Remember, being completely terrible at something is the first step to being pretty darm good at it.

Heidi Grant Halvorson (Social psychologist at Columbia’s Motivation Science Center, speaker, contributor for HBR, Fast Company, Forbes, 99u and author of No One Understands You and What to do About it) recommendations the following steps to shifting your mindset, and freeing yourself from the fear of mistakes:

Step 1: Begin a new project by explicitly acknowledging what is difficult and unfamiliar, and accepting that you will need some time to really get a handle on it. You may make some mistakes, and that’s ok. That’s how ability works — it develops. (Repeat this to yourself as often as needed.)

Step 2: Reach out to others when you run into trouble. Too often, we hide our mistakes, rather than sharing them with those who could give us guidance. Mistakes don’t make you look foolish — but acting like you are a born expert on everything certainly will.

Step 3: Try not to compare your own performance to other people’s (I know this is hard, but try.) Instead, compare your performance today to your performance last week, last month, or last year. You may make mistakes, you may not be perfect, but are you improving? That’s the only question that matters.

It’s okay to screw up, just don’t give up!

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly. It’s my FREE weekly newsletter for the curious mind. I hand pick the top 10 most insighful long form posts and send the list out to subscribers every Friday.

About The Author

Thomas Oppong is the Founding Editor at AllTopStartups. You can connect with him on Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram.

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Thomas Oppong

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Founder @AllTopStartups | Featured at Forbes, Business Insider, etc. | Join my personal newsletter for life and career tools at

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Featured at Forbes, Business Insider, etc. | Join my personal newsletter for life and career tools at

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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