When it’s time to work, I keep a very simple mantra in my mind: Get $h!t Done.
Over the years I’ve learned that it’s really easy to deceive yourself. It’s easy to piddle around and not actually move the needle. It’s easy to lie to yourself and pretend you’re making things happen.
Because we don’t want to starve, we’re constantly sharing insights that help us get more out of US. How do we overcome internal resistance to taking action? How do we cultivate an environment that produces great work? How do we kick ass in everything we do?
These are questions we’ve dove into extensively. Over the past year, we’ve attempted to answer those questions and apply that knowledge to our business model and personal lives.
One big thing we’ve discussed extensively are these so-called ‘mind viruses’ that tend to infest the human brain.
If you experience writers block, resistance, feeling stumped, it probably means there are various mental viruses humming in the background of your mind killing your ability to make something significant.
I call one of these viruses the black (& white) widow.
The black (& white) widow is deadly to Getting $h!t Done. It stops you in your tracks, clamps down, and paralyzes your body and mind.
It’s called the black (& white) widow because it’s black and white thinking. In other words, all-or-nothing thinking. Some may call it perfectionism.
I’ve grappled with it for years. Without a doubt, it is one of the most deadly killers of creativity.
“Perfection or bust.” “Do it perfect, or don’t do it at all.” These are common voices that are coming from the black (& white) widow.
“B b b b b b but wait a second, isn’t that just setting a high standard” – Your skeptical self says.
No. It’s not.
With black and white thinking, tackling projects becomes a gigantic burden. Attempting to create something new becomes stressful. It’s exciting at first, but there’s a self-created pressure that kills your drive quickly.
Why? Because when you begin taking action, you realize perfection may not be possible and maybe it was just a delusion all along.
At this point, the black (& white) widow bites down, and negativity venom sinks into your blood stream. “Stop trying, this is impossible.” “Hey man, you should probably check Facebook right now, something important might have happened!” “Check your email!” “This isn’t that important, why not take it easy today? Tomorrow will be better.”
All of this is rationalization, a direct result of the black (& white) widow.
Excessive perfectionism is simply procrastination by another name.
When I set out to write this blog post I immediately felt resistance. “Dude, it doesn’t really matter.” “You don’t even have a specific vision for where you’re going to go with this idea, let’s just put it off.” “No one’s going to read this shit dude, no one cares.” “Search engines won’t find this post and it’s not going to even help Klicker, get over it.”
The funny thing all of these things might be true. But they might not be too. All I know is that deep down I wanted to attempt to express this understanding into words.
So how did I get through that resistance?
I took on the role of the parent overlord instead of listening to the whiny little child. It’s like when you tell a kid to clean their room. At first they kick and scream, but if as a parent you hold strong, eventually they accept.
This is exactly what goes on in the mind. It kicks and screams, you hold strong, eventually it complies.
Creativity is like navigating a new path. You have to take one step at a time. There are also certain times during the day when the path is easier to navigate, such as the morning when your mind is fresh. Or you might be a night owl, and make dark magic over a pot of black coffee well past the witching hour.
Either way, make it easy on yourself—if you know taking a 6 am swim in the chilly Pacific every day gets your creative juices flowing (like me), incorporate that into your creative process.
Make it work, then make it better.
We aren’t striving for perfection right off the bat, but we also aren’t trying to pump out barely functional garbage, either.
The perfect storm of creativity and overcoming resistance is by working through iterations.
The iterative process took off in a big way through the software industry, but it’s applicable for just about any lean, mean business model.
In the iterative process, your work is never truly finished—a piece of content or a website are only done in the sense that feedback from its current iteration drives research into the next iteration.
If you put up a new website, your first instinct is to spend every waking moment fine-tuning and perfecting all of the styling, spacing, etc. But without feedback, this is just a shot in the dark.
A better approach is to take it slow, using the iterative process to gradually make changes, and observe how those changes affect the usability and design of the site.
All innovators and creative thinkers are able to get out of this mind virus. They see it for what it is, a detriment to their goals.
That’s why the iterative process is much healthier for your creativity and sanity than perfectionism. As you iterate, your project drifts closer and closer to perfectionism without the overwhelming burden on your conscience, and best of all, you can actually test each change to visualize its effect.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of the iterative process is simply having something.
I remember reading about tech startups building extremely niche (and extremely expensive) software right at the start of Web 2.0, where they faced a make-or-break decision. Some of these companies needed to charge high monthly costs to keep their businesses running, but being new companies they just couldn’t offer enough features right at the beginning to justify the price tag.
Instead of taking a loss and developing out their products further, they began iterating. They released their barely finished software and started earning money immediately.
They collected feedback, saw which features their customers truly needed or didn’t need, and were able to totally shift course in development. Instead of going bankrupt, they released what was essentially a demo and charged money for it. And they succeeded.
Had these companies waited until their programs were 100% perfect, they likely would have gone under. Instead, they embraced uncertainty, the tentative baby step forward that so many of us are terrified to make.
Ultimately, that’s what this is all about; Get $h!t Done.
In order to be a successful entrepreneur, designer, writer, marketer, and business owner, the ability to Get $h!t Done is what will ultimately make or break you.
Your future self will definitely thank you for it. The difference between a winner and a loser is the ability to take risks and put yourself out there, even if you or your product isn’t 100% perfect.
Remember, you can always go back and make tweaks later. But you’ll never have anything real to modify and iterate if you can’t step away from the drawing board and into your brain’s workshop.