Do You Believe in Perfection? [Part Two]

This is part two of a post on Perfection. Missed part one? I’ll let it slide, this time. You can find part one here.

In part one, I talked about how the words of others can change our expectations and goals. Compliments like “awesome” and “genius” have become overused pleasantries. Few of us take them seriously.

Perfection is different. We internalize perfection. The expectation of perfection festers within us and disrupts our flow. When we are distracted by perfection, we focus solely on an outcome. In this case, the outcome is always binary; success or failure to achieve perfection.

The problem we all face is that more often than not, outcomes are out of our control. We also have no control over what others expect of us.

This mix of internal and external pressure limits our potential by placing obstacles in our path.

Here is something you may have never considered. You are in complete control of the goals you set for yourself. Think about that.. no, take 20 seconds right now and really think about it.

Okay, you may be thinking, I’m not always in control of my goals. I have a sales goal each quarter. If I don’t meet it, I may need to find a new job.

That may be true, but focusing on your boss’s expectation of a specific outcome becomes an obstacle. You are far less likely to encounter obstacles like this when you set internal goals.

Focus your thoughts from moment to moment on your process, not an external outcome.

The issue is, our minds are wired to spin up thoughts about outcomes (i.e the future) at the expense of what is. Buddhists call this monkey mind.

The monkeys don’t play by the same rules as we do.

Focus your thoughts from moment to moment on your process, not an external outcome.

The Monkeys Take the Lead

During the first three years of my startup the monkeys were firmly in control of mind. I’m not beating myself up over it. I haven’t met another first time entrepreneur that wasn’t suffering in some way. Knowing I wasn’t the only one was comforting, but did nothing to slow down my mind.

I was a sole founder, and non-technical to boot. In the startup world, that’s an ugly unicorn. Everything was going to be harder; raising money, attracting talent, retaining clients… everything.

All the while I was constructing a vision of what my company would look like in, 5, 10, 20 years.

I had no internal process for dealing with this. Nothing. I wasn’t present. Like Cooper from Interstellar, I was entirely focused on an outcome. I was watching the movie in my head.

Monkey’s love that shit. They’re smart enough to know that there are an infinite amount of outcomes and convince you that only one of them will make you happy (your goal).

If you asked me then, I would not have said I was seeking perfection.

I would have been wrong.

Once a desire calcifies into an anticipated outcome it becomes a zero-sum game. The anticipated outcome is perfection, anything less, you lose. This game will needlessly burden your mind.

Imagine standing close to a busy interstate. Cars, trucks, and buses whip through loudly from different directions. Each vehicle affects your senses in a different way. Some are loud, or large, or blue, or red. Some pass by so quickly you can feel the wind and your body vibrate.

The vehicles will command your attention. Standing so close is likely to overload your senses.

Now let me ask you this. Once a vehicle leaves your line of sight, could you tell me where they are going?

It’s impossible to know where to find perfection. But here’s the worst part, there’s no assurance that you’ll like what you see if you get there.

I was chasing perfection even if I didn’t know it. The problem was, my mind could run a lot faster than I could. My mind was flooding with thoughts, pushing huge boulders in my path and stalling my progress.

Let’s look at the math.

I’d estimate that 90% of the thoughts I experienced during that time were unproductive. When you are trying to accomplish something extraordinary, unproductive is counterproductive.

Of those 90% of thoughts, 90% originated out of fear or desire (more on this in part 3).

100% of those thoughts, originated from my own expectation of a specific outcome. I was trying to predict where each car on the interstate was headed.

Nearly all thoughts in this category turned out to be unfounded, or just wrong.

It’s impossible to know where to find perfection. But here’s the worst part, there’s no assurance that you’ll like what you see if you get there.

Turns out that the monkey’s were almost always full of shit. If they knew what they were talking about, I would have lost all my clients in the first six months. The monkeys also were pretty pushy when it came to building new, useless features for the product.

I’m not good at math but non-technical analysis tells me if you remove the expectations of a specific outcome, you remove the thoughts that will stand in your way.

In part three I’ll offer my definition of perfect.