Good ideas are everywhere. I hear them every week. We’re flooded with them. I’m no doctor, but I don’t think we’re suffering from “lack of ideas” syndrome. It’s something much simpler that’s plaguing us.
I’ve been noticing two competing ideas in organizations; creativity and excellence. Of course, we need innovative solutions to problems and beautiful works of art that move us. Count me in for more creativity.
It’s the other one that’s tripping us up; the evasive idea of excellence. While I appreciate things done intentionally and with care, this desire for excellence has morphed into an obsession, and I have to blow the whistle. The quest for excellence can drive us toward crippling fear causing us to hold our ideas back or work ourselves to burnout making sure the product is unbelievable. Excellence slides into perfection subtly.
So, how do we combat the quest for excellence spiraling into the paralysis of perfection?
Define what you mean by“excellence”. If we don’t define “excellence” it will equal perfection. The definition I work with every day; “Doing the best I/we can with the resources I/we have at this moment”. Could it be greater with more resources? Perhaps. Will I/we be better at this two years from now? Absolutely.
But now is the time, and I’m going to get started with what’s in my hand instead of waiting for magical resources to float down from the sky.
Ask this: What is your definition of excellence?
Think direction, not destination. If life and leadership parallel a journey then we’re heading somewhere, but we’re not exactly sure what the dot on the map is. When we’ve clarified the direction we’re going to move we can discern whether these steps move us toward or away from that. We move toward our goals, we don’t crush them.
Ask this: Is this step moving me/us in the direction of my goal/s?
Think progress, not perfect. Everyone starts with a rough draft. Instead of crossing your arms and hoping a book contract drops in your lap you can start taking steps now. Write for three hours and share your work online every week. Ask published authors your questions. Write chapter 1, then keep writing the book. Explore self-publishing. Get honest feedback on your ideas and writing. Steps bring us purpose and self-confidence; inaction gives us worry and self-doubt.
Ask this: Does this step make progress toward the goal?
If you’re creating you will misspell words, make formatting mistakes, get a 1 star reviews, sit in a room where no one shows up and have your fair share of misses. Failing (or just making little mistakes) is the cost of creating. But that’s what makes us appreciate you and realize you are human and learn from you. We need your ideas, your risks, your rough drafts and your grit. The best leaders model what they want to see more of.
Do the best you can with what’s in your hand, and keep taking steps in that right direction.
Director of Culture and Coaching
Alan is a mountain guide for the leadership journey. He loves outdoor adventures, but the greatest adventure of his being a father and husband. Alan is crazy about helping hungry leaders conquer overwhelm and navigate with courage. He serves leaders and organizations around the country through coaching, speaking, consulting, designing experiences, hosting mastermind groups, writing his own books and ghostwriting for others. He co-hosts Stay Forth Leadership Podcast and regularly writes for Outreach and Field Notes .