Perfectionist's Paralysis

~ 3 min read | Category: Newsletters

For a good number of years I was heavily involved with Toastmasters — the non-profit organisation for people who want to improve their public speaking.

I gave speeches, competed in contests and even ran a club for a year as president. It was fun, I met some cool people and my speaking skills definitely improved.

But I always thought of it as just a hobby. I’d never been paid as a “professional speaker”.

Until one day, an opportunity dropped into my lap out of nowhere…

…and it was so far beyond anything I’d done before that the thought of it scared the living crap out of me.

Long story short, a large non-profit that I’d once worked for as a volunteer was planning a day-long staff conference — and they needed somebody to host the entire event.

And it was a big event. The venue was the main hospitality suite at a Premiership football club in London and 500 staff were expected to attend.

On the one hand it was a massive opportunity that could lead to other exciting things…

…on the other it was a massive responsibility and could go horribly, horribly wrong.

I knew I didn’t have enough experience to be confident of pulling it off. But I also knew if I said “no”, I’d regret it for years to come.

So, with a sick feeling in my stomach, I said “yes” and with a month until the event I went into preparation overdrive.

I meticulously researched the organisation and all of its senior people. I contacted everyone who was on the agenda to introduce myself and even helped a couple of them hone their presentations. I made it my mission to know everything there was to know about that damn conference.

I essentially spent a whole month preparing for just one day.

But when that day arrived, and I expected my nerves to be at their most shredded, I actually felt completely calm. I knew there wasn’t a single thing I hadn’t done to make the day a success.

So what’s all this got to do with online courses?

When you launch your first course it can feel like a huge event, where every element needs to be perfect.

The result is that you get caught in a kind of “perfectionist’s paralysis”. You have a certain standard you want to reach — and then feel daunted by the challenge of hitting that standard.

However, a course is nothing like a live event that happens once then disappears forever.

Instead, the first version of any course is a happy experiment. A best guess at what might work.

And it can evolve as you learn what works and discover what people want. Missteps are easily erased. Improvements easily made.

The irony of even trying to make it perfect right away is that you’re not the best judge of what perfect looks like. That’s your audience.

So launch your course when it’s good enough and no better.

Evolve it based on feedback until it’s great.

And just accept it’ll never be perfect.

See you soon,


P.S. If you’re wondering how my event went at the football club, it went great! Not perfect, but great. I’d give myself a solid 8 out of 10. :-)


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