Many years ago I wanted to create a newsletter that would help people with their “perfectionism” problem. I’ve always been a “perfectionist” and it is not a fun way to live sometimes. It seemed to be a continuous struggle, so I thought I would start a newsletter to help people who were experiencing the same issues. Needless to say, my newsletter never got off the ground.
Yesterday my life long friend and I were talking about falling into the perfectionism trap, so I thought it would be an interesting post and it would be fun to convey a story that made me realize “I had issues.”
I know this sounds strange but I created a registry and education potbellied pig organization called NCOPP in 1990. It stood for National Committees On Potbellied Pigs. It is a non-profit organization which I founded and developed from nothing into a robust entity for 6 years. In time it became a dying breed due to the fact that pigs can have 10 to 14 or more piglets per litter. Its demise had everything to do with supply and demand. I would advise anyone starting a new business to not let emotion cloud the realistic picture of the business you are pursuing. Do a lot of research prior to developing a business plan and take the time to do serious research in future projections.
This article is not about potbellied pigs. It’s about perfectionism. One objective of our organization was to register potbellied pigs and educate owners to support the breed. This was in the 1990’s, so the internet was barely getting off the ground. In fact, Microsoft windows had just made its debut.
One service our organization provided was mailing out information or questions about potbellied pigs. For example, let’s say, clipping potbellied pig nails, or maybe traveling with your piggy. One of my jobs was to provide the information requested by mail (not email, but snail mail). I fulfilled requests by mailing back articles pertaining to the requested information. This is when the perfectionism part comes in.
I would get a request in the mail, pull one or two articles pertaining to their request, and instead of mailing the information out, I would set the articles on an 8 x 10 yellow envelope on my “action” counter. I would not mail it immediately thinking, “My response isn’t perfect enough. I’ll wait to be sure I’m sending the right material.” A couple of days would pass, and then I would realize I had not followed through to get the information to the member. I would end up mailing out the original articles that I could have mailed out the first day of the request.
One day, a week had passed and I noticed I had not mailed out an information request. I felt a little bit of a panic and concluded that this isn’t working. My “perfectionism” was disrupting my work! It was at that moment I realized that this issue was a possible problem. After that experience, I had to discipline myself into taking immediate action the day I received a request and mailing out material the day it was received, regardless if it wasn’t “perfect.” At least they got the information in a timely manner.
Another example of this condition was the way I handled faxes during that time. A return or request fax would be delayed until I typed out a beautiful cover letter to accompany the memo. Again, this created a delay and I had to break down and “fill out the cover letter by hand just to get it out on time!”
Since then, I’ve improved tremendously and I don’t get hung up on being perfect. Not being perfect makes us unique and human.
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