Perfect is the Enemy of Good (or, Learn Everything You Need to Know to be a Successful Entrepreneur From This 10 Second Family Guy Clip)
Like nearly any creative field, being successful online is special in that there’s no one path to get there.
Even within a single industry, there’s no single, definitively right way to do things.
Craig Ballantyne, one of my good friends and early mentors, consistently highlights this in his content and workshops.
Years ago, he pointed out that from the very outset of my business, my model was to lead with my personality more than my content.
“John’s model,” says Ballantyne, “is be a cool guy. If you’re a cool person and have interesting things to say, people will want to hang out with you.”
This has proven to be true. In an abstract way, my business is being me, professionally.
Of course, there’s more to it: I’m an expert in my field and, ostensibly, people hire me for my expertise. But there are other experts providing similar services.
Prospective clients engage my professional services because—based on what they know of me from my content—they feel we’d get along.
While it was unintentional at first, over time it was something I embraced, cultivated, and perfected.
This type of personality-driven marketing is a uniquely effective way to stand out in the marketplace, especially as a so-called solopreneur, as you are usually both the representative of the business and the business itself.
Even when that’s not the case, having a strong personal brand tends to amplify everything else you do, which is why we focus so heavily on it in Wellspring Writing Mentorships.
But, I digress.
While there’s no one right business model guaranteed to make you successful, success can be boiled to just one trait. There’s one thing every single person must do, regardless of the model, the service, or the industry itself.
Going back to Craig, I think he put it best. When I asked him what he thought it was, he responded with an impression of Family Guy’s version of the Emperor—and said these words:
Ne’er truer words were spake.
No joke, this clip holds the key to success in just about any business—but especially as a content creator. The second sentence the Emperor speaks unlocks the mysteries of the universe:
Something, something, something…complete.
That is your new mantra. Those are the only words you need to remember if you want to be successful online. Forget the business books, forget the copywriting courses, forget the seminars. For now, ignore it. All you need is the Emperor.
Something, something, something…complete.
You see, the key to success—the thing that differentiates people who hit home runs from those who never get off base—is this understanding: your job is to finish something.
Your job is to finish your product. Finish your article. Finish your course. Finish your book proposal.
Something, something, something…COMPLETE.
Complete. That’s the key. Finish it.
Finish something. Literally, finish ANYTHING. Doesn’t matter what it is. I don’t care if it’s a manual on How to Train Your French Bulldog to Act Like a Dragon and you don’t think anyone will buy it.
Only one way to find out: finish it and release it. Just fucking finish it. Put it out in the universe.
It’s the simplest thing in the world. And so much harder than most people realize.
After years of coaching dozens of people and helping them put their art out into the world, I see more self-doubt and stutter-stepping than you can imagine.
People capable of achieving a high level of success know their potential; this feeds their ambition, but also makes them highly critical of their work. For the most part, each of these is good—you need both the ambition to create drive and the critical eye to grow and improve.
But the latter, taken to extremes, keeps you stagnant.
There’s wanting to do good work, and then there’s perfectionism. Therein lay the problem.
It’s long been said that perfect is the enemy of good.
The struggle with perfectionism has been documented throughout history. Some of our greatest thinkers caution against perfectionism, aiming instead for great: something done well can still change a business or a life, or the world.
Aristotle and Confucius denounced the extremism inherent in seeking perfection, instead lauding the golden mean. More recently, the internet has fallen in love with the idea of the 80/20 or Pareto Principle, thanks in no small part to Tim Ferriss.
It’s easy to recognize the wisdom from the outside. When you’re in it and working your ass off on a project…not so much.
We’ve all been there. Late nights spent at your computer, bringing your vision to life, bleeding on pages. You’re releasing a piece of yourself into the world; of course, you want it to be amazing.
And if you’re good, it will be. But let me just tell you right now: it’s never going to be perfect. And that’s okay. Because perfect isn’t the goal. Complete is the goal.
The something, something, something is nearly immaterial; complete is, at the highest level, the only thing that matters.
This is not to say, of course, that you should be satisfied with mediocrity, or stop striving for greatness. It’s merely a call to recognize at a certain point, perfectionism is a form of procrastination—you may never be totally satisfied with the finished product.
But, often, that voice telling you it isn’t good enough isn’t your drive for professional or artistic greatness; it’s imposter syndrome, the insidious tendril of self-doubt worming its way through your mind.
It’s so easy to believe. So simple.
If we convince ourselves we need to stay up into the wolf hours of the night tweaking minutia, and it would be ready if only we could find the exact right pairing of heading and body fonts…
…we don’t ever have to release it into the world for consumption.
Then we get to fantasize about what’ll be like when it’s “perfect.” Because then it’s guaranteed to be successful. To be huge. That everyone will love it.
Coming soon is so much more appealing than came and went.
Once you finish it and put it out, that’s it.
“Until you do,” says the voice of Doubt, “it can’t be judged. You’re safe.”
True. If you don’t release it, it can’t be judged. But it can’t be praised, either. It can’t be purchased, for that matter. And it can’t help anyone.
Ignore that voice. Doubt is a dick, my friend. So pay no attention to that malcontent.
Listen to the Emperor instead. He may be a megalomaniacal asshole, but at least he knows what’s best for you.
Something, something, something—COMPLETE.
Finish it. That’s the key—to everything. Finish the things you start instead of abandoning them to start five others. Sit down and complete your task, complete your product.
The metric you use to measure success doesn’t matter.
- Money? Fine: finish your product so people can buy and you can make money.
- Traffic? Well, people are only going to come to your site and share your work if it’s actually finished.
- Influence? Your projects can’t influence the world if you don’t release them for consumption. Finish it, release it, and watch your influence grow.
However you measure success, you can only get there if you complete something.
It really is that simple.
There really is ONE trait that makes people successful, and it’s that they find it in themselves to finish something, anything.
If you can do that, then you can be successful. Your business model is irrelevant—you can buy traffic or do affiliate promotions or run a coaching program or even just be a cool guy.
As long as you FINISH something, you can be successful—so successful you can build your own Empire, fully equipped with a (complete) Death Star.