Don’t Do the 10 Steps to Sure Success

Yesterday I almost registered a company name. While I was reading up on how to register a business name, I started reading all the articles on 30 questions you have to answer before you start a business. I didn’t have the answers, so I chickened out.

The point of these articles is to save you the pain of failure by making sure everything is perfect before you do anything.

Except that nothing is ever perfect.

It makes us feel safe to think that we have all of our ducks in a row, so nothing bad can happen. But really it’s just an excuse to orbit the goal forever. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you’ll never go through with anything.

Social messages, from advertising and children’s stories to college handouts and business worksheets, are littered with promises that everything will work out all right if you just do these three things first. It makes us feel safe, but it’s not true.

Don’t choke on the guarantee

1. Everything will work out all right in the end, regardless of what happens. In the meantime though, you’ll probably fail spectacularly and make a ton of mistakes, and that’s okay because you don’t learn a lot about yourself, your life, or the world if everything’s perfect all the time. In fact, a life without failure is pretty close to the unquestioned life that Socrates didn’t want to live. You haven’t lived at all if you haven’t racked up a few bruises.

2. Going through the process people tell you to go through guarantees nothing. They think that is the route they took to success. But they are either missing main elements or they don’t understand where you’re at. Their process probably did guarantee success, for someone who thinks exactly like they do, in 1982. Not anymore.

3. When it comes to doing something new, sometimes the momentum counts more than the direction. You may have no idea where you are going, but what matters is that you are going somewhere. Waiting for the perfect answer hurts you more than going with the wrong answer.

Evidence from misguided thesis statements

When I tutored English, I explained ten times a day that you do not need a thesis statement to write an essay. Well-meaning English professors tell students that they cannot put a single word on paper unless they have decided on the perfect thesis statement – a one-sentence summary of their essay. Some people do write better essays if they plan a thesis first. Most people though, like me, can only write a thesis after they’ve already written a paper and know what they just said.

I wonder sometimes if being able to write a thesis before an essay is a peculiar trait of people who become English professors. More than likely though, the myth has been propagated by some poor fool trying to write lesson plans, who decided whatever worked for him must be the proper way to teach everyone.

In reality, there’s no one way to write a paper. Every person, every project, and every circumstance is different.

Sometimes the challenge is inventing ways to let go of the outcome so you can just do the damn thing. Sometimes it’s about dealing with all the issues in life the paper creates, like having no time for your boyfriend. Sometimes it’s about exactly what the English professors think it is – research, process, and grammar – and you still fail the paper because what you should actually be doing is moving to Italy and becoming a videographer. Life is like that.

Running with Imperfection

In the end, an imperfect, fallible something is better than a perfect nothing.

So I think I’m going to register the damn name.

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