Tag Archives: Perfectionism

Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic

Worst CriticI gave my very first keynote last month and big thanks to all of you who came and cheered me on. I got it all on video, and though you’d think I’d be anxious to view the tape, it took me a month to get myself to watch it. Why? Because I am my own worst critic.

Though I’ve logged over 20,000 hours of speaking and performing, this time felt different. This was my own material, performed for the first time, so I had a lot at stake. I was prepared, the audience was receptive, and overall it went pretty well. I even got a dozen folks to give testimonials on camera at the end of the night.

But still, I procrastinated a solid month before I could force myself to watch the performance. Because I knew, inevitably, there would be moments that would make me cringe.

The Disease of Perfectionism

Everyone does this to some extent, but we Manic Impressives tend to outdo most folks when it comes to perfectionism. We know we’re capable of great things, so seeing ourselves being less than perfect is hard to take.

Reasonable people don’t expect perfection the first time out. And we creatives know that performing in front of an audience is an iterative process. We get better each time out by learning from mistakes and striving for better. But it’s still tough to view our mistakes, no matter how much good stuff there is in between.

We become our own worst critic.

I’ve seen perfectionism destroy people. Like my friend Josh, a brilliant guitarist and singer. He would obsess over the tiniest flaws in his performances, and drive himself nuts. He couldn’t live up to his own impossibly high standards. In the end, he quit performing altogether. It was a shame.

Your Own Worst Critic

Many of us are overly harsh when critiquing our performances. Have you ever done this to yourself?  You overlook the good things you do and dwell on the negative. The missed lines, the mispronunciations, the flubs, the glitches, and the miscues.

It’s natural to want to do better. But many of us are too critical of ourselves. We need to be as gentle with ourselves as we are with our friends. Or our kids.

Otherwise, getting back out on stage becomes too difficult. And even if we don’t realize it, we can subconsciously avoid opportunities to shine. Or worse, when we are performing, we focus so much on past mistakes, that we drive ourselves to commit the same mistakes when we try again.

Olympic Failure

Like speed skater Dan Jansen in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Dan was the world champion and gold medal favorite when he lined up for the 500-meter race. But to the shock of everyone, he fell in the first turn and did not place.

Four days later in the 1000 meter race, Dan was leading the pack in world record time. But with just one lap to go, he fell in the exact same place on the ice where he’d fallen in the 500-meter race.

I remember seeing this as it happened  – it was heartbreaking. Dan had psyched himself out. He obsessed over his earlier mistake to the point where he couldn’t avoid making that same mistake again. He was his own worst critic and it cost him dearly.

Getting Over Yourself

So to balance your need to be critical with your need to feel good about yourself, I suggest you take the following approach.

Know that no matter what you do, some of your audience won’t like it. You’ll remind them of their 8th grade bully or their condescending mother in law. You can’t do anything about their bias, so don’t worry about them.

A percentage of your audience will love you no matter what you do. You’ll remind them of themselves or who they want to become, and they’ll rave about your performance just because you’re you. You can’t count on their objectivity, so take their adulation with a grain of salt.

Focus on the rest. The ones who are impartial enough to be honest. Value their feedback, and look for ways to improve in the areas they point out.

If you can’t get enough feedback from them, hire a coach. Someone honest enough to be direct and give specific feedback to help you improve. And knowledgeable enough to validate what you do well and encourage you to continue.

If you outsource this, you won’t have to be your own worst critic.

Practicing What I Preach

So in the spirit of killing my perfectionism, here is a link to the video of the maiden voyage of “Do You Know Who You’re Dealing With?”  Consider it a rough draft, and enjoy the flubs and glitches.

I welcome your honest feedback, so don’t hold back. And don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I did that to myself already…

3 Important Reasons Why You Need To Watch Fight Club Again

Fight Club

Fight Club is a movie you need to watch over and over. Because Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, says brilliant things you should be thinking about. Sure, you’ve all heard, “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.”  No doubt you’ve heard about the second rule too.

But all that is just a vehicle for the message. It’s not about fighting in the literal sense. It’s about fighting the values of modern society that are killing your dreams. About fighting Materialism, Perfectionism and Authority.

The Genius of Fight Club

The genius of Fight Club is the language Tyler uses to rally his tribe of disaffected young men. His words inspire them to examine the direction of their lives and take action. He’s not just speaking to the disaffected, though.

He’s speaking to you.

Here are some brilliant quotes you might not have remembered from watching it just once.

On Materialism

“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman from my son’s school. I hadn’t seen her around for a while, so I blurted out an insensitive question (where the hell you been?) and received an amazing answer.

They had to leave town and hunker down in their in-laws’ guest room, because they’d gotten in over their heads and lost their home to foreclosure. They lost everything.

I was mortified. But she wasn’t. She told me it was the best thing that could have happened to her family. They were on the wrong path. They got off the materialism merry-go-round and re-focused on their values because of the setback. It brought them closer as a family, and had a powerful, positive effect on the kids. I was amazed.

But I shouldn’t have been. Materialism is a toxic force in our society. Sometimes a financial loss leads to a huge gain. Therefore, we should embrace these opportunities that look like failure. They can lead to better things. And make us better people.

For more on this, see the movies Larry Crowne, Everything Must Go, or The Jerk.

On Perfectionism

“On a long enough time-line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.” 

There you go. All the permission you need to start letting go. Let go of the need to be perfect, to have all your ducks in a row, to be fully ready for the next item on your list. Tyler thinks you should start before you’re ready and adjust on the way.

Because you’re going to die. Hopefully on a long time-line, but you’re going to die. So forget about perfect and get out there and live. Though to do that, you need to change your mind on whose rules you’re going to follow…

On Authority

“Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it?
“Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think everything you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. … Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.”

Tyler challenged authority at every step. He set a good example for us all. We should fight authority much more often. Maybe not how he did it, though, since the dude was bat shit crazy. Perhaps we can fight the power in a more effective way.

And we should always ask “why” before we follow along. We should question our leaders, and they should answer without retribution or shame. There needs to be constant dialogue about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and most importantly, why we’re doing it.

Yes, challenging authority has its price. Manic Impressives pay this price all the time. But the price of blindly following even the most beneficent leaders is too high. Blind obedience produces results that are blind to reality. It spreads blindness. And causes catastrophe.

Watch It Again

So listen to Tyler. Watch this movie again and again. Let it inspire you to ask why, and come up with a better way to accomplish your mission. Just don’t go around blowing things up. Please.

Now I leave you with my favorite quote of the movie. Sorry, but you’ll need to analyze it on your own:

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” 

Amen to that, Tyler.


4 Simple Strategies for Staying On Target

StayOnTargetOver the years I’ve learned a few things about myself and how to get things done. This has been a slow, evolutionary process. Oddly enough, what got me going on this was something I learned from Star Wars. Remember the final battle sequence in the first Star Wars movie? Luke Skywalker had to drop a shot down an intake valve on his final desperate approach over the Death Star to win the battle and save the Rebellion.  His wing commander was shouting through his headset these powerful words:

Stay on target, stay on target!”  

This has become my mantra, and it’s helped me develop these               4 simple strategies for getting things done: Continue reading 4 Simple Strategies for Staying On Target