Battling Perfectionism #36

Warwick Fairfax

September 22, 2020

It can make a professional paper cut feel like a full-fledged crucible. It leaves you wondering why you and your work are never good enough. But perfectionism, for all its insidiousness, can be overcome. Show yourself some grace, find the humor in your missteps and realize that good enough usually is, in fact, good enough.

Highlights

  • The insidiousness of perfectionism (3:51)
  • Warwick’s recent struggles with being a perfectionist (5:13)
  • How perfectionism makes you fret about the past … and the future (10:21)
  • Tying your self-worth to your performance is a breeding ground for perfectionism (13:26)
  • How apologies can help perfectionists (15:03)
  • Don’t move the goalposts in assessing your behavior (17:03)
  • Perfectionism can prevent your dreams from becoming reality (18:34)
  • Deal with your perfectionism in small things so you can survive the bigger things (19:44)
  • Everybody isn’t running around judging you (25:00)
  • Perspective is key to mitigating perfectionism (26:06)
  • The importance of humor in battling perfectionism (28:34)
  • Realizing good enough is often good enough is key (32:23)
  • Focus on gratitude to combat your perfectionism (38:23)
  • Curing perfectionism is like weeding a garden (41:43)
  • The power of forgiving yourself (45:21)
  • A challenge to listeners (48:21)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome, everyone, to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co-host of the show, and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. You have clicked play. We hope you’ve clicked subscribe to a podcast that deals in what we call crucible experiences. Now, you probably know what they are because you’ve probably experienced one. Crucible experiences are those painful moments in life, failures, setbacks, traumas, tragedies, some things that can happen to you, some things that you can have a hand in making happen, but their common denominator is that they can knock the wind out of your sails. You can be moving along a line in your life, a crucible experience can come along and knock you off your feet, knock you off your trajectory. They are truly life-changing moments.

Gary S:
And that’s why we talk about them here. But we talk about them here on Crucible Leadership not so that we can kind of swap war stories, we talk about them here so that we can find hope and healing through the experience of other folks who have gone through them, and through the insights and the experiences of the host of the program and the founder of Crucible Leadership, and that man is Warwick Fairfax. Warwick, it’s great to be here again with you, talking about a subject that we both know all too well.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, yep. Happy to be here. This is a subject I’m sure we both wish we didn’t know so well.

Gary S:
Indeed. In fact, the subject that we’re going to talk about today is perfectionism. I’m already feeling the burden of that, because I wanted to say in the introduction that I’m with Warwick, not welcoming Warwick like I’m the host of the show, because I’m not, Warwick is the host of the show, I’m the co-host, and I want to make that clear, and I didn’t quite do it the way I wanted to do it. So there you go. Perfectionism rearing its difficult head. To kick off our conversation, Warwick, I thought I would start with something you wrote. And listener, there is a blog that Warwick has on this subject, and sometimes when Warwick and I do these episodes where there’s not a guest, it’s just the two of us talking about principles of crucible leadership, many times the ideas for these podcasts grow out of a regular blog that Warwick writes for crucibleleadership.com. You can visit crucibleleadership.com, sign up to receive regular email updates, which will include his blogs. But here on the subject of perfectionism is the opening paragraph of the blog that Warwick has penned on this subject.

Gary S:
“Perfectionism is a struggle that so many of us have. No matter what we do, it seems like it’s not good enough. Other people might say our work was great, that dish came out really well, we played amazingly in that game, but what do we say to ourselves? ‘Well, our work could have been better. We knew we should have added that one spice that would have taken that dish to the next level. Okay, we might have played all right, but there was that one crucial opportunity in the game that we did not take advantage of.’ Those affected by perfectionism, for us, the glass is perpetually half-empty. We are never satisfied with our performance.” I’ll add by way of turning it over to Warwick, I don’t even sometimes think the glass is half empty. I sometimes just think the glass is a dirty dish, and I’m the one that got it dirty.

Warwick F:
Boy, that is so well said. Half empty would seem to be optimistic, wouldn’t it? Perfectionism is insidious. We get so self-critical, and we’ll talk about the ramifications later, but it can make us risk-averse, it can make us think no matter what we do, we fail. It just can erode our sense of self-confidence, our ability to accomplish things, it can affect our relationships. I mean, it’s really an insidious thing.

Gary S:
One of the reasons that we’re talking about this today is that you and I both have had, in the last couple of weeks, circumstances, situations that occurred where we kind of beat ourselves up or were kind of perfectionistic about, and it occurred to you, “That might be a really good blog to write for folks,” and then it occurred to us, “That might be a really good podcast.” So this comes from, in the same way that Crucible Leadership, and I’m not overstating this, I’m not being glib, in the same way that Crucible Leadership was birthed from your major life crucible of the failed takeover of the family media company. Just like that birthed Crucible Leadership, some experiences that you’ve had over the last couple of weeks, some experiences that you’ve had throughout your life, very real experiences with perfectionism kind of prompted the blog I just read for and the podcast that we’re having right now.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Perfectionism can run the gamut from the small seemingly trivial incidents to the major. And I can think of some recent, some not so recent, let’s start with the trivial. We’re in Northern Michigan at the moment and we were going to go on a bike ride on this just beautiful trail. And there’s three adult kids and my wife. So we’ve got to figure out how to put the car carrier on the car for the bikes. And of course we need more than one car because we can only put three bikes on a car carrier. So there’s a bit of a logistical, we’ll figure it out. So we figured it all out. Then we made sure we had everything. So we get there and everybody has their bike helmet, except me. What you need is a bike and a bike helmet. Because safety first, even though it’s a trail through the wilderness and tunnels of trees, it’s just beautiful. And I’m one of these people that double, triple check. I rarely forget things. I mean, I’m not infallible, but for some reason it was like a 20 minute drive back to the house. I was just crucifying myself. So what ended up happening? Because you can always use another bike helmet and some of them probably in the world.

Warwick F:
We went like a two minute drive to the nearest town that had a bike shop, got a bike helmet. But meanwhile, that’s delaying everybody. They’re waiting for me. It’s like, “Dad, I mean, come on. I mean really, I mean bike helmets.” And they’re okay. But I was just, at least certainly for that day, I don’t know about the next day, I was like, “How hard is it? Pick up the bike helmet and put it in the car.” I could have swore I did it. Maybe somebody’d taken it out and you get a bit crazy paranoid sometimes when you’re a perfectionist, so I got over it, but I was so angry at myself, because I’m delaying people. I’m feeling stupid. So that’s sort of one incident. I can think of another incident, when I’m not much of a boating guy, but we were driving this boat back into a hoist, which when there are waves on Lake Michigan, you need a hoist to raise it above the storms.

Warwick F:
And there was a couple of kayakers out there watching us pull into a dark area, but they were way too close. And so right where I wanted to line myself up, they were in the way. And so what ended up happening with all the [stack 00:09:55] people on the boat is I came at the wrong angle and I kind of scratched the side of the boat and because of the way things work you have to wait until you winterize. It was going to be weeks or couple months before anything could be done. And I persecuted myself, beat myself up for days, maybe even a couple of weeks or more and stuff happens, but it’s like, “Oh, I should have told the stupid kayak people who I was pretty ticked at, I don’t know who they are, move out of the way but I didn’t think about it.” And it’s like, “I should have been more careful. I should have this, should have this, should have that.” And it just went on and on and on.

Warwick F:
Probably one that felt a little bit more serious was International Coach Federation certified coach. And one of the things we do every few years is get re-certified and you go through a mentor coaching thing just to make sure your skills are sharp. And so at one point I was doing that. And so we each take turns coaching each other. And I like even though I don’t do as much coaching now cause of Crucible Leadership, I like to think I’m reasonable, if not pretty good. And for whatever reason, the technology just wouldn’t work. There was an echo. And so I was like about 15 minutes late, everybody’s waiting, finally get on. I’m flustered. And the person I was coaching, maybe we had different mindsets and I just could not get off a space. As a coach, if things don’t work out, you always blame yourself. That is part of the profession. You never blame the client, even when you’re tempted to. But it was really, I like to think I’m a good coach, but it was not that good because I was trying too hard.

Warwick F:
Because we weren’t able to make progress, I was pushing and pushing and pushing, which you should never do as a coach. You should never [earn 00:09:25] it. So the reason, and I berated myself for days, a week or two, because this felt worse than some of the others because I like to feel like I’m a good coach, but it wasn’t my best day. And even though you can say, even when you’re good at something, you’re not going to bat a thousand, I was just beside myself with, I mean, to a degree that’s overstating it, but there are also other people listening. It’s a mentor coaching deal. And they were able to observe my poor performance.

Gary S:
Perfect storm.

Warwick F:
And of course, in other weeks when other people coached, they were unbelievable. So I thought, “Okay, good, out of this cohort, I’m probably had the worst. Yeah. So what did people think of my level of coaching?” So yeah, I mean we all have our bad days and nobody else really cares. People understood the whole technology thing threw me a bit. And but yeah, I tend to be really hard on myself with perfectionism.

Gary S:
And there was an interesting point you made, as you were introducing some of the first of those stories, I think, or the second one, there was an interesting point you made where you talked about, And I hadn’t thought about until just now, but the reach of perfectionism is sort of like burning the candle at both ends, meaning you mentioned, “How hard is it to remember to bring a helmet? There’s one of two things you have to do. You have to have a helmet and you have to have a bike. I blew 50% of that. I didn’t have a helmet.” So there’s the, what we would call, ruminating over, “Oh, how did that happen? Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do that?”, about what happened before the incident that leads you to feel perfectionistic, but then there’s the projection into the future. And I have never told you this story, Warwick, but I’d already been working for you for several months when we had a meeting in Denver where we all got together along with Signal, the folks at your branding agency that were all big. I was still new to the team, but I was comfortable with the team. I knew that the team would have grace for me, but I was to give a presentation the morning after I arrived in Denver.

Gary S:
And while I was preparing for it, I realized I did not bring the little dongle thing that connects my computer to the screen where I could run through this extraordinary presentation in my mind that I had created. I spent, I’ve never told you this, but I spent, Warwick, at least an hour on the phone in full on panic mode with my wife saying, “Oh my gosh, I forgot. I forgot the thing. I can’t do the presentation.” And so that was the, “How could I have done that? I have a list of things that I have to have. And I brought four watches for two days in Denver, but I didn’t bring the thing so I could do my presentation. How does that happen?” So again, how does it come about perfectionistic about how I blew it? And then the other end of that was perfectionistic about what was going to happen. “I’m not going to be able to do my presentation. Warwick’s going to think I’m an idiot. All the folks at Signal are going to go, Oh, why did we ever introduce this guy to Warwick?” And it was.

Gary S:
I mean, Kelly, my wife could come out right now and say, “Yep, he’s telling the exact truth,” because it was so all encompassing. I could not see my way beyond what I had done wrong and what the ramifications might be. And I was beating myself up. And that is a terrible place to be.

Warwick F:
Yeah, it is. It’s funny as you share perfectionist stories with each other, I can say, “Well, I mean, we would have been fine. It wouldn’t have been a big deal.” You can say, “Okay, so you had one bad day coaching. I’m sure they understood the technology.” And other people often can understand much more than we can and are much less willing to judge us. I mean, some people are just judgmental by nature, but most people… But we’re just so hard on ourself and we think about how does this show up? And I think at the root of it is we tend to tie our self worth to our performance. And what’s ironic as both of us, as people of faith, from our perspective, there’s a sense, well, God loves us unconditionally because of who we are not because of what we do. I mean, I go to a nondenominational church in Annapolis, Maryland. I’m even an elder. In theory, I should really know this stuff.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
And I do intellectually. I get it and I believe it very much, but clearly if I really, really believed it, then maybe my actions and my mindset would be a bit different. So this perfectionism thing, even when you know it’s stupid, it runs so deep. I mean it’s really complicated. I mean, we tend to compare ourselves with other people, like I did with the coaching thing. Everybody else did the lights out. Me, not so much. So you hear other people coaching and it’s like, “Wow, you did fantastic. I mean, I guess I have to think of something to add that you could have done.” With me, it was like the other way around. “There’s got to be something he did positively.” He didn’t quite say that, but yeah. So we compare ourselves and we’re certainly-

Gary S:
And the truth of the matter for that, Warwick, the truth of the matter is everybody else on that call doesn’t even remember what happened. And they probably forgot it like five seconds afterward. And think about this. I hadn’t thought about its application to perfectionism until you just told that last story and think about what’s one of the most common things we say to someone when they if you’re late to a phone call, you’ll say, “Hey, I’m sorry I was running late. I had to put the dog out or do whatever it is.” Most of the time we’ll hear back from the person, “Oh, no problem.” Right? Isn’t that a very common thing?

Warwick F:
No problem. It’s all good.

Gary S:
No worries.

Warwick F:
It’s fine. Hey, It’s good. Yeah. I mean, exactly.

Gary S:
And I have thought, and now I know why I think this way, I have thought, and I try not to do that with people because I always felt like if someone apologizes, even if I think it’s silly, to them it’s not silly or they wouldn’t have apologized. And if I say, “No problem,” I’m not allowing them to close the loop. I’m not allowing them to close that perfectionistic loop. So saying “No problem” to someone doesn’t actually help them feel better because they don’t feel perhaps released from their sin, their problem that they’re talking about. So that’s why I think when someone says, “Hey, I’m sorry that happened,” rather than say “No problem,” which is their reaction. They’re not thinking about that, but to just offer back, “Yep. I forgive you. Yep.” That helps them close it and that can help them not walk in perfectionism afterward.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, you don’t have to beat them over the head, but certainly if they said, “I was late,” you could say, “I get it. We’ve all been there. it’s really okay,” Or yeah, I mean, something like that to acknowledge, but realize that you’re not judging them or you’re not holding it against them. So yeah.

Gary S:
Right. They say, “I’m sorry,” you say, “You’re forgiven,” or something that speaks to that and that can close the loop and make everything start moving ahead.

Warwick F:
Yeah, it is. I mean, I know we’re going to dwell in a bit on what are some tips for counteracting it, but just to explore it a bit more, we compare ourselves and self worth. One of the insidious things about the perfectionism is we tend to want to move the goalposts. No matter what we achieve, it’s like, “Okay, well, this was good, but there was another level.” So if you’re doing some presentation, “This was good. And I need to do A and B better next time.” So you do A and B a better next time, you’ll find something else. It’s one thing to say, “Oh, there’s something more I could do better.” Great. Perfectionism is no matter how good a job you do, it’s never good enough in your mindset. So that means you were doomed to failure always if you take that to its extreme. And it can almost mean anything short of perfection, which, because we keep moving the goalposts, is impossible. We design the game, we design the competition in a way that we can never win. Just when you thought you’ve got a touchdown, the goalpost are moved another 50 yards. There is no way you could ever possibly win And because we tie our self worth to that, it can just erode our sense of self worth left to its own devices.

Gary S:
And it can be emotionally exhausting. Think of the example you just used. We think we’ve gotten into the end zone and then we’ve moved the goalpost ourselves, 50 yards down the road. What’s that going to lead to? Hey, it’s 50 more yards, it’s 50 more yards. There’s 25 more yards. You’re going to be exhausted physically if you were to do that and you’re exhausted emotionally.

Warwick F:
Exactly. And you’re going to be exhausted and it will tend to make you risk averse. “What’s the point in trying, because I know I’m going to fail at least by my own definition of success and failure?” And the last thing the world needs is it’s a bunch of risk averse people that won’t go for their goals and their dreams. So actually, back in a Crucible Leadership framework, we’re all about living lives of significance, lives on purpose, dedicated to serving others. We’re about bringing a vision to reality that comes out of your design and your passion. Well, left to its own devices, a bit like weeds, ff you don’t deal with perfectionism, it can mean that life of significance won’t happen. That vision won’t become reality. I mean, that’s serious stuff. So we can joke about or other people might find it amusing anyway about the forgetting the bike helmet or boat or what other little incidents we have, but that kind of mindset, that’s just a small manifestation of a larger problem. If left to its own devices, it can get in the way of your dreams becoming reality. So it’s a serious thing.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And in those quote unquote small moments, they’re not really small if you’re perfectionistic about it because perfectionism makes a paper cut feel like a crucible. Perfectionism takes that thing that may be as small as a technological stumble in a coaching session that you really in many ways had nothing that you could’ve done differently, but that can feel as emotionally draining, as devastating as a true crucible experience the likes of which we talk about on this program all the time.

Warwick F:
Well, and imagine if that’s how you deal with the paper cut, how are you going to deal with the real crucible? I mean, Oh my gosh. I mean, as listeners would know from previous podcasts and blogs, for me with the whole $2 billion takeover and losing 150 year old family business in Australia, I mean that is a big deal. It’s not a paper cut, it’s a massive crucible. And I never thought about it in terms of perfectionism, but because my self worth was so tied up in bringing the company back to the ideals of the founder and seeing it be well managed, for a lot of the 90s, I was just beating myself up mercilessly. I mean, it’s sort of a cousin to perfectionism, maybe just self persecution. I guess it depends on the name and two sides of a similar coin, but it was the typical, as one guest we had recently, I think Professor Joseph Badarocco of Harvard Business School, talked about the difference between ruminating and perspective and-

Gary S:
And reflection.

Warwick F:
Exactly, reflection and ruminating. Well, I was doing a lot of both, but certainly a lot of ruminating. It’s like, “Gosh, how could I have thought that would work? And I used the wrong advisors rather than the good ones. I didn’t listen to the good advice and it’s caused damage in my family. I have a Harvard MBA. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have assumed the family wouldn’t sell out? How could I have loaded the company up with so much debt? Look what I did to people’s lives and the company,” and on and on. I was just like, “How could I be so stupid?” So it was that perfectionist mindset rather than an objective thing with, “Yeah, maybe there wasn’t so smart,” but I was 26, there were emotional things involved with family and stuff that happened to my dad. There were reasons maybe. There was some people with other agendas. It was complicated. Yeah. I made some mistakes, but it was a complex thing. And at 26, other people in that situation, their dad having died, there’s a probably more objective nuanced look at it. But yeah, I was in full on self-flagellation, self persecution mode.

Warwick F:
So the long and short of it is when you come to big crucibles, you have a perfectionistic mindset, I mean, it can cause years of damage and despondency and self-flagellation, which is just not healthy for you or anybody else.

Gary S:
And let me ask you this question, Warwick. It’s 30, I’m terrible at math, but it’s more than 30 years since that takeover bid. Are there still times that you, even for a second, beat yourself up? Are there still times when you think about it? Because you have to live in it every day with Crucible Leadership. Are there still times as you talk to interviewers about it, as you come on the podcast and talk about it, on this podcast and talk about it, are there times that perfectionism still manifests itself in even a fleeting feeling of “Man, I messed that up”?

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, I’m sure it does. I always believe with crucibles is even if you get over them, there’s still a scar. I have to say, it’s much less than it used to be. And part of that’s because I’ve had years to think about it. And I talk about this so much because it’s part of the cornerstone of the Crucible Leadership origin story, if you will, that it does get easier when you’ve talked about it for the 10, 20th, 100th time. And you talk about and people ask you, “Well, maybe there were some other things going on and it wasn’t all your fault,” or you come to accept it. So it’s actually considerably less. I mean, it honestly is not nearly as bad as it used to be, which is somewhat of the miracle given how hard I am on myself. So it’s really, it’s not nothing but it’s vastly less than it was, which is amazing.

Gary S:
And this would be a good time because one of my jobs on the podcast is to ensure that we are moving on with alacrity and we keep time And if we don’t keep the time exactly where I think we should, then I ended up being perfectionistic and feeling bad about it because I’m like, “Oh geez, that went 10 minutes longer than I wanted it to.” So we have talked work, we have talked here just sort of organically about some ways that perfectionism manifests in our lives. Our sense of self worth is tied with how we perform. We compare ourselves to others. Before we start talking about and move on to how do we combat perfectionism, are there any other examples or any other manifestations of perfectionism that you think it’s important to share with listeners?

Warwick F:
I mean, I think we’ve kind of covered it. I mean, we do feel like that everybody else is judging us. We feel like we’re defined by our own worst day. And it’s just amazing that people aren’t really focusing on us. They’ve got their own issues, their own problems, their own hopes and dreams. Everybody’s not wandering around judging us.

Gary S:
Right. I have a quote. Every year when I have a birthday, I’ll publish on Facebook. This last birthday was 55 years. So I’ll say, “55 things I learned in 55 years.” And I started this, I think, back when I turned 50. So I’ve been doing it for five, six years now. And one of them I always put on there is “I am less than my successes and I am more than my failures.” And that’s, I think, a good perspective for us to keep. The mountain top isn’t our reality every day and the Valley isn’t our reality every day.

Warwick F:
I think that’s so profoundly true. You kind of know that you can never get over perfectionism, but how you really begin to try to deal with it is what we said at the outset is you cannot tie your sense of self worth to your performance, to your successes or failures as you eloquently say. Just because we score the winning touchdown, we kind of did incredible at that play recital in high school, it doesn’t mean that we’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, we’re the second coming, we’re just amazing. And so during those highs, just say, “Okay, be happy,” be kind of like “That was great,” but don’t start thinking, “Oh wow. I’m just amazing.”

Gary S:
Yeah. Don’t start believing your own press clips, for sure. For sure.

Warwick F:
And the same thing goes for when you have times in which you don’t do so good, don’t believe you’re the worst person that’s ever lived, which you can go that way at the extreme. So that’s really, it’s a choice. It’s a discipline. You’ve got to separate who you are as a person from what you do, what you do isn’t who you are. And that requires a seismic mindset shift. It’s probably the single biggest thing, and it’s easy to say, but you’ve got to just be disciplined. It’s really a daily issue we’ll come back to in a moment, but yeah. Separate your sense of self worth and what you do from who you are.

Gary S:
And this idea, and you mentioned it, this reality that really other people who we share a life with, especially other people who just kind of pass through our lives. The other people who may have been on that counseling call that you were talking about, or that coaching call that you were talking about, they may have just been, not even people you know well. They were just people that were kind of passing through your life. They probably don’t even remember your name, let alone some of the technical difficulties you had there. But we all think about that. We all think that person’s going to think that I’m the dumbest person who ever lived. Well, that person doesn’t even know you. “So this idea that other people typically could care less how we are performing at any given time,” you write in your blog, “okay, your boss might care. That’s true. But in general, if we fall short one day, even by other people’s standards, they don’t judge us. They see we’re trying, and they give us the benefit of the doubt. They appreciate the fact that we’re trying.”

Warwick F:
And that’s where I think a sense of humor is good. I don’t always do well at that but if I was wise and more mature, when I forgot my bike helmet, it was, “Well, that was kind of dumb and stuff happens and there was a million details and somehow it didn’t happen. Oh, well, the world’s not going to end just because I forgot my bike helmet.” I got another one. We had a fantastic bike ride. It was a great day. What’s the big deal on a scratch on the boat, or as you say, the coaching call. People were like, “Yeah, I might’ve been flustered and it was a challenging situation and yeah, you pressed in too hard, but yeah, we’ve all done that.” I mean, they were probably full of grace. So just realize how other people thinking about it. I think of another tip that’s useful is that, I know it’s easy to say, but give it your all and let go of the outcome. We’re not defined by our outcomes. What’s important is did you try your hardest? Absolutely did in the coaching call. I really tried to lean in, probably tried too hard, but give yourself a break and what I was also going to say is don’t hold things too lightly. As I said before it’s okay to laugh at yourself. We all have idiosyncrasies. I’m getting better at laughing at my own little foibles and the way of doing things.

Gary S:
Yeah. And it’s true. That sense of humor part can be really critical, not only for you to feel better. And I’ll give an example from our working relationship, Warwick. One of my roles on the podcast listener is to try to find guests that we can have on to talk to. And I’m looking all over the place in different places. I’m doing searches on failure and bouncing back, and then see who pops up in Google and I’m doing all kinds of stuff. I’m going to podcasts, guest sites to find people. And I’m not batting a thousand every time. I come up with an idea I think might work. And we’ve had experiences over the year that we’ve been doing this podcast or close to a year that we’ve been doing the podcast. I’ve had experiences where I thought a guest might be perfect And I present that guest to Warwick and Warwick, as the head of Crucible Leadership and my boss in that sense, Warwick will say, “Oh, well that might not work.” And it’s funny. I feel terrible in those moments, not just like I messed up, but I feel like I let you down when that happens.

Gary S:
But one of the things that I’ve been able to do, and I’ve noticed it’s happened a few times, thankfully not hundreds of times that I’ve picked guests, that I’ve suggested guests that didn’t work out, but I’ve then tried to crack a joke at my expense in a meeting and you’ll laugh. And when I see you laugh at my joke about, “Yeah, well, I picked that wrong,” or whatever it is, that helps relieve the pressure on me. I see that it’s not a huge thing to you. So a sense of humor can help you as an individual feel better about yourself. It can also help you realize that those people you think are judging you, those people you think are mad at you, those people you think will never let you get over it, don’t take it nearly as seriously as you think they do.

Warwick F:
They really don’t. I mean, that is a good example. I mean, people judge you for your expertise and your effort. I know for me, if somebody is giving it their all and they’re not batting a thousand, that’s fine. They’re making a big contribution. You’re going to get a lot of grace points, so to speak, if you’ve had a history of not just expertise, but just you’re all in and maximum effort. I mean, that’s so true. I mean, one of the other things I think of with myself and I’m really trying to learn it is what hurts my ability to overcome perfectionism is I’m one of these people that you either do it a hundred percent or not at all. You’re in fifth gear or in neutral. I’m hardwired to just absolutely give it my all in whatever I do. And that’s not a bad quality, but that can translate into perfectionism. “Oh, I gave it my all and I only did 99% of what I wanted to do.”

Warwick F:
And so I’ve really come to the point where, and this is hard for me to say, 75, 80, 80% or 85%, in a number of cases that’s fine. When there’s a bunch of things you’re doing that’s okay. Because for a perfectionist, 75 or 80%’s probably pretty darn good. And it’s not that I want to settle, but when you’ve got millions of things to do, you can’t always spend a thousand hours on every blog. Stuff wouldn’t get done. So you’ve got to say, “Okay, I’m going to do the level best I can within a reasonable amount of time,” whether it’s prepping for a podcast or the book on crucible leadership that’ll come out next year. Obviously I’ll pay a lot of attention to that, But even then I want to get as close to 100%, but the book will never come out if I spent, to use that number again, a thousand hours reviewing every chapter and every edit. I mean, my gosh, if you go, “Okay, I think this is good enough.” It’s sounds sacrilegious to say good enough.

Warwick F:
That is just words I never utter, but for a perfectionist, it’s okay to say, “You know what? I think, given the timeframe and given everything else that’s going on, it’s good enough. And I’m going to be okay with that.” You’ve got to force yourself to say sometimes good enough is good enough.

Gary S:
Yeah. And that makes me think, and you mentioned him earlier, our interview with Dr. Joe Badaracco, who in his book about reflecting and the importance of finding time to reflect, that’s one of his points. Aim for good enough. And he talked to us about it. We think that in order to reflect on what’s going on in our lives and the important decisions we have to make, we think we have to go on a Tibetan retreat. And it’s not like that. You can reflect while running. You can reflect while driving in your car. You can reflect anywhere you can do it. Aim for good enough, because if you aim for perfection, guess what? You’re never going to get to reflect. If you aim for good enough, you’re going to seize those moments that you can do that.

Warwick F:
Well, exactly. I mean, very few of us have time to go to the top of a mountain and reflect for a month. I mean, even though I’m extremely reflective, I don’t like doing that. I tend to reflect, I mean, obviously like a number of people of faith, I have my daily quiet time and Scripture reading and all, but just as I’m in the shower, I’m having a walk, I’m reflecting and thinking all the time. That’s just part of life. But you reflect and make a decision, but here’s a very small example. One of the things we do with the blog is we’ve got to pick a photo. Well, I don’t have 500 hours to spend to approve a photo in a blog. It’s not that big a decision. The world won’t end if the most perfect photo isn’t found. That’s a very good example of good enough is good enough. So we spend some degree of time trying to find the one that really fits the words and the concept we’re trying to present. And then we make a decision and we move on.

Gary S:
Right. Hearing you talk about that reminds me of something I used to do. Both of us have newspaper backgrounds. I didn’t own any, but I was editor for a few. And one of the things I would do on the city desk and the city editor for listeners who don’t know is the guy who edits the copy for the local newspaper. He’s the first set of content editing eyes on the stuff that goes in your local newspaper. And I used to have a phrase I would use or phrases I would use if I had like 15 stories coming in and I had only three hours to do them. Some stories would get what I called an A1 edit. They were going on the front page of the newspaper and they were going to get three reads through. I was going to read them backwards to make sure there were no typos. They were going to get my A-plus effort. They were going to get a 100%, but I also had what I called my C5 edits. And those were the stories that were somewhat less important that were inside the newspaper. And they got a good effort, but they didn’t get three reads.

Gary S:
They didn’t get all of that stuff. They got, “Let’s get it done. Let’s make it as good as it can get and let’s move it along the line.” So I think that applies in so many areas of our lives. And, as Joe Badaracco said, aiming for good enough is not heresy or sacrilege or giving up or not doing it right. It’s recognizing your limitations and acting in a way that allows you to put your best foot forward for the best things that advance what your vision is.

Warwick F:
That’s so well said. So for instance, the level of effort that I’m going to give to reviewing a chapter of the book that’s coming out next year is going to be more, maybe considerably more, than reviewing a image for a blog That’s going to come out and one should receive a whole lot more effort and attention. It’s like, to use your analogy, it’s the front page story versus something that’s going to be on page 35, that’s going to have one paragraph and it’s going to be buried somewhere.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
One of the other things I think it would be useful to talk about because being a reflective person and thinking, “Okay, well, we all agree perfectionism is a bad thing. And don’t go overboard with your level of effort, depending on the challenge and how important it is.” But one of the things I think has helped me is just have a sense of, it’s going to sound a little pop cultureish, but sort of daily gratitude. And I don’t know, they do it every day, but I kind of, maybe it’s a spiritual thing, but I just, in my case, thank God for the many blessings that I have, wonderful wife, three great kids. I love what I do with Crucible Leadership. I have an amazing team. I’ve got so much to be thankful for. So I try to just look at, somehow when you’re so thankful for what’s happening, the perfectionistic thing, it shouldn’t directly correlate, but I think it can help.

Warwick F:
And I think it’s also okay to look back and say, “Okay,” not to sort of dwell on the successes to say, “Oh, look how wonderful I am,” but just, but just be thankful for the things that you’ve been able to be a part of. I’ve been on two nonprofit boards, my kids’ school and have been an elder at church, and I’ve been involved in strategic planning and some governance stuff and coaching. And I’ve got this book about to come out and love the podcasts we do And the blogs. I have a lot of things that I’m grateful for and some things that I do poorly, but there are some things I actually do well. And that’s not said because of hubris or arrogance, but it’s like, if you can honestly say to yourself, “I’m actually making a contribution. I’m living a life of significance to best degree possible or at least to a reasonable degree. There are some things I do well, there hopefully are some people I bless and even in some small way, then maybe I’m not a total screw up. Maybe I’m worth something.”

Warwick F:
I mean, I know my faith tells me, God loves me irrespective of what I do. I know that. So I need to own that. But objectively, there are some things I do, which is maybe not very spiritual, but objectively that says I’m probably worth something anyway, because there are some things I’ve done that have been okay, if not good. So therefore if I fall short, why should I beat myself up? So this concept of almost like a daily exercise, gratitude is really and thankfulness, an objective view of who you are, not this jaundiced, “I’m a screw up,” because few of us are that bad.

Gary S:
I have this thing I do every night on social media before I go to bed and because I’m a word guy and like to think I’m clever, I call it Grata Today. So it’s my gratitude for today. So I’ll go on Facebook and I’ll type Grata Today, colon, and then I’ll just list one thing that I was grateful. For last night, it was how fantastic my wife’s chili tasted like eight months after she made it because we vacuum sealed it. So it was like, not only did I get a good meal, but I realized what a great buy was to buy a vacuum sealer. That was my gratitude for the day. Not a big thing, but it was something that I could focus on that made me go, “Yep.” Especially in the time of COVID and some of the things that are going on in the country to be able to find those things that you can hang on to and be grateful for, that’s extremely important.

Warwick F:
I think it is. And yeah, some other tips for dealing with this, because I fully admit that dealing with perfectionism, this is one tough challenge and speaking of perfectionism within perfectionism, but I think of dealing with perfectionism, like weeding, is you really got to be very disciplined. So when you feel that sense coming that, “Oh, here we go.” It could be a small issue or even a big, but a small issue. You just feel those feelings. Two or three thoughts. One is even if it’s something little, like “I forgot the bike helmet,” somebody like me, I’ll say to myself, “Okay. I know I’m beating myself up today, but tomorrow’s another day and I probably feel better tomorrow because I can’t magically switch off my feelings.” Just give yourself a break, realize it could take a day or so and that’s okay. That almost eases the tension. And then sometimes what I do is in my case, talk to Gail, my wife, or if it’s something to do with Crucible Leadership, I might chat to some people on the team. With this whole coaching thing, I think I’ve mentioned it behind the scenes to a number of folks that I work with and somehow it makes it easy to deal with. They say look, “I get it. We’ve all been there.”

Warwick F:
And when you have that empathy and they’re walking with you, a combination of time and being able to talk it through with others, even if they say the predictable, “It’s okay. We’ve all been there,” that level of empathy and understanding that definitely helped with the whole coaching incident. So bottom line is be proactive. Don’t let those weeds grow. Deal with it. Yes. It’ll take time. And when you feel those feelings come up, just try to bang them away, just squash them. It’s like, “Okay, I’m not defined by this. I know it’s stupid. Stuff happens.” Talk it through with others and just try to be disciplined and not let those emotions take hold and just be objective about it and not defined by forgetting a bike helmet or a poor coaching performance.

Warwick F:
Think of all the other things that you’re doing. Come on, be objective, be realistic, laugh at yourself for being so silly and so hard on yourself. Talk it through with others. There are practical things that are not going to switch those negative emotions off overnight, but they will help. There’s no question in my mind. There are things you can do that will help.

Gary S:
Absolutely. And that is a good point, Warwick, where I would talk about landing the plane, because I’m perfectionistic about timekeeping, and I’m like, “Oh, no. I don’t want to run too long.” But here’s something I’ve never told you as well about my perfectionistic streak. Go back, listener, and listen to the last five minutes of any podcast you want up until the last couple of ones. And when I say, “We’re getting to the point where we have to land the plane,” and I’ll say, “The captain’s turned on the fasten seatbelt sign. The landing gear’s going down.” I’ve also said this, “I see the guys on the runway, waving those flashlights.” I said that five or six, seven, eight times, until Kelly, my wife, over dinner one time, said, “You realize you say that, but they don’t do that when the planes land because they’d get hit by the planes.” She said, “They don’t do that. That’s not a sign of landing the plane, sweetie. That’s a sign of getting the planes lined up to take off and stuff.”

Gary S:
And I’m like, “Ooh, boy, do I feel stupid that that’s out there on 25 podcasts.” So have grace for me, listener. Yeah, but as we wrap up, Warwick, I think one of the places to go to that I think is critical for all that we’ve talked about and that is this idea of being able to forgive yourself when you have done those things that have kicked in your perfectionistic cycle. And I want to read something that I found from Psychology Today that talks about the power of forgiving yourself and how you do it. The first line of this really struck me. It says, “When we’ve done something quote unquote wrong, we register it in our nervous system and if we try to forgive ourselves for something without releasing the underlying emotion or belief that we’ve attached to it, forgiveness just doesn’t take. No matter how hard you try to forgive, you continue to beat yourself up for whatever happened, because your nervous system tells you to.”

Gary S:
So you really have to release that negative emotion, those things that you talked about. Over time you were able to release, to talk through, what happened with the takeover. You were able to talk to members of the team about the coaching kerfuffle. It’s really important, in forgiving yourself, to let that release go, because your nervous system, there’s a physical, emotional thing that happens when you hang onto feeling like you were wrong and you messed up.

Warwick F:
And not only are you going to dwell on it, but it will stop you doing positive things in the future. It will be like a 10 ton weight. It will stop you taking risks. It will stop you moving forward. I might make that mistake again, so it’s important to forgive yourself, and if it’s a small issue, you need to forgive yourself for forgetting a helmet, well, maybe you do if you’re beating yourself up for it and think you’re a terrible person, but you’ve just got to be disciplined and deal with, realize we all make mistakes. I mean, if you’re willing to show grace to others, and most of us are, then isn’t it reasonable that you should deserve as much grace as you’re willing to show others? It just makes no sense, so you just got to be disciplined and not let those negative, perfectionistic voices take root. As we said before, sometimes good enough is good enough and we’re all going to have the bike helmet incident or “I can’t believe I thought it was flashlights landing the plane.” It’s like, we’re not pilots.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
If you were a pilot, you would never make that mistake, but we’re not pilots and that’s okay. Maybe there’s a couple of pilots listening to the podcast who go, “Pff. That’s, come on, really?” But even then, who cares? I mean, they’re not going to unsubscribe to the podcast because you mentioned flashlights rather that something else.

Gary S:
I certainly hope not.

Warwick F:
If they do, then oh, my gosh, what’s their problem? But, yeah, I mean, we just need to have a bit more sense of humor and just lighten up on ourselves, which we just need to.

Gary S:
Well, the plane has landed and there were no men or women on the runway with flashlights when that happened. I want to conclude this one, Warwick, differently than I normally do. Normally I’ll say, “Here’s three or four takeaways you can get from the show.” I’d like challenge listeners to do a little something off of this episode, and that is to take what you’ve heard as Warwick and I have had this discussion and apply it. Forgive yourself if you are still ruminating on something that went wrong. Recognize that you are less than your successes and more than your failures. Find something you’ve heard here and put it into practice. Take that first step. We interviewed a guy on the show, Mike Valentine, he used to be a steel hanger. He would walk the steel in the skyscrapers and he would talk about what you learn when you’re walking steel on a skyscraper that’s being built is that you got to take the first step, because if you don’t get that one right.

Gary S:
You’ve got to take the first step carefully. You’ve got to take the first step intentionally, because there’s no second step if the first step’s wrong. Take that first step, listener. If you’ve heard anything in this conversation about perfectionism that resonates with you, take the first step to arrest it, to overcome it. And here’s the thing. I’ll leave with this. You don’t have to be perfect about how you release your perfectionism. It’s a process. What Warwick and I have described here is a process. It’s okay to have that process play itself out. Thank you for spending time with us as we’ve had this conversation and remember that your crucible experiences, be they big, major ones that everybody would recognize as crucibles or maybe some of your crucible experiences are those paper cuts that feel like crucibles because you can’t let go of a feeling of perfectionism surrounding them, whatever those crucible experiences are, they’re your crucible experiences. Your pain is just that, your pain, and it’s real to you.

Gary S:
But remember that if you learn the lessons of those crucibles, if you don’t wallow in those crucibles, and you apply those lessons, it’s not the end of your story. In fact, it can be the beginning of the next chapter of your story, which will be the best chapter of your story because it will lead to something that Crucible Leadership exists to point you toward and that is a life of significance.

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