Why do we find it so hard to make positive changes?
Might it be that sometimes we don't know where to start?
I don't mean that we don't have enough information. That we don't know what all we need to do. That's hardly an issue these days.
But I mean that we don't know what to choose as our first battle.
If your goal is to start waking up earlier, maybe don't beat yourself up Monday morning when you're still getting up with just enough time to make it to work on time. (Or at least before the boss notices.)
No, you can beat yourself up for that after you've mastered going to bed at a decent hour. That sounds like a great place to start. First things first, as they say.
I've only recently been able to journal regularly.
I had tried so many times before. It always started with the perfect journal. And then I'd come up with my perfect system.
And then after few entries, I'd have discovered a new perfect system. And then I needed a new perfect journal. Because I couldn't have my new perfect system mixing with my old perfect system.
And then I started getting journals with blank pages. Which meant I could no longer have the perfect system. Because something was bound to be off. And inconsistent.
But on the flip side, I had never felt so free.
Each page was bound only by its size. Not by lines or grids or dots.
Each page was free to be what it was meant to be.
A vignette. A traditional journal entry. A page of what would become a blog post.
The true blank page was what led to my sketching. Which has led to a number of other benefits.
All thanks to one little change. Not thanks to anything major.
Major comes later.
What's one little change you can start working on today?
Perfectionists have it all wrong.
They're afraid of failure. As if they're deathly allergic.
So they want to move forward only when success is guaranteed. If only success ever were.
Perfectionists would be better served to expect failure. To embrace it. That view would be more accurate. And more useful.
Because, what's to hold you back if you know you'll fail? Might as well try something new, right? Fail in a way that makes you proud. Go down swinging for what you believe in.
My new LinkedIn newsletter will likely fail. Just like so many of my other creative projects that came and went before.
In past years I would have been bothered by the possibility. Back when I was a perfectionist.
But these days I can't wait to fail. Because that's where the real lessons are learned.
Perfectionists, you're doing it wrong. So, so wrong.
I'm finding myself caring less and less about people's job titles.
Instead I'm curious about their fundamental skills. What's the cornerstone of their accomplishments? For me, it's writing.
Writing informs how I see the world. I approach most problems as a writer approaches prose.
Maybe you're a salesman.
Or a leader.
Or a storyteller.
Whatever the case, what does it mean to you? What does it say about you?
What's the title that really matters?
I recently renamed my blog. Yeah, LaCaze Business Review is a recent creation.
I wanted something a little more inspiring than “Jake LaCaze”.
Something that would make me feel as if I own a publication. Like a former blog from a few years ago: Flirting with Nihilism.
Before settling on LaCaze Business Review, I had also considered “Pessimism in the Rearview.”
I had a few reasons:
I don't regret settling on LaCaze Business Review. I now realize that “pessimism in the rearview” is more like a personal philosophy soundbite than a blog name.
Act like you've been there before.
You usually hear this criticism from some guy sitting on the couch as he watches someone else perform at a level he knows he can never reach. The guy who's never been there thinks he knows how someone else should act.
The guy on the couch doesn't know the work it takes to score that touchdown or to make the game-winning buzzer beater. The watcher sees only an event that looks like any other. He takes the moment for granted.
Because he didn't put the time in. He didn't push through the self doubt and insecurity. He didn't see how close this effort came to failure. And if he did, he doesn't care, because it's not his butt on the line paying the consequences.
Success is not the default. It is the exception. And sometimes, it's not about the event itself.
It's not about how you defeated the opposition in front of you.
It's about how you beat the opposition inside you.
If you've ever been in a rut, then you understand the importance of momentum. And how difficult it can be to create.
A great streak starts with one success. That first win may be the spark that sets up a long string of wins.
And yeah—maybe that guy in the end zone has been there before.
But there's no guarantee he'll be there again. So yeah, he shouldn't feel bad about celebrating his win.
By the way, I'm not the only one who see it this way. So does Bill Belichick.
When I was younger, I dreamt of finding my dream job at a dream company. It was out there—I just knew it. I just had to find it.
So many of us think Utopia is just round the corner. (If anything, hell is round the corner.)
The path is so easy, so clear. If only we can push a little harder to make it reality.
But now, as I approach middle age, I know better. Utopia doesn't exist and I can't make it real, no matter how hard I try. The same goes for the workplace: The perfect one doesn't exist.
How can we expect systems run by people to be perfect when no individual can perfect even him or herself?
The appeal of the perfect workplace is that you never get surprise fire drills. Or we think the perfect workplace has the proper resources to extinguish the fire before it can spread too far.
This is the wrong way to view work. Because the truth is that we get paid to put out fires. The metaphorical kind, unless you're literally a firefighter. Then you're hopefully already comfortable with the concept of putting out fires for a living.
It's a bit of a cliche that may make you roll your eyes: But fires are not just threats or inconveniences—they're also opportunities to step up and shine.
And we can better serve ourselves and others by embracing those fires. We're not so easily rattled because we knew the fires were bound to pop up. The prophecy (AKA our adapted expectations) told of its arrival. We don't try to wish it away. We don't talk about how much easier our day would be if the fire weren't there. We don't seek a person to blame. We don't moan about how our perfect safeguards should have stopped the fire.
Because the fire doesn't care. It will continue to spread if it's not extinguished. Or at least contained.
We take responsibility for the fire. We take ownership, even if we didn't start it. And we get to work putting it out.
And when we're done, we look back at the facts and diagnose the issue. And we put better safeguards in place, knowing damn well another fire will pop up because there's no such thing as a perfect workplace, despite our best intentions.
If we're not putting out fires, then why are we on the payroll?
I'm directionally challenged. I can't get anywhere without the GPS on my phone. When I do learn my way around, it's only after years of taking the same route between the same points over and over and over again.
I don't learn so much by the roads, by putting together which road connects to which. I learn more by feel. By the texture of the road, by the angles of the curves. By how much the trees hang over the pavement. These are all things I take in, even though I can never articulate what exactly is off when I know I'm lost.
I know how to use a map. The layout makes sense whenever I take the time to look over a paper guide. Then I can see how the roads connect and how they feed into each other and how they're meant to flow.
But it's only when I look from afar that everything makes sense. I can't make heads or tails when I'm in the thick of it.
Sometimes we just need to change that perspective, to somehow look from a bird's eye view.
And then we can see so clearly where all the roads are heading.
I'm a recovering perfectionist. I suppose I always will be.
But who can blame me? Who wants to fail, right?
All that planning. All that anxiety. All that effort. All of it gone up in smoke when you take your best shot. Only to have it all blow up in your face.
How embarrassing. How humiliating. How demoralizing.
How can you ever recover? How can you regain composure? How can you show your face in public again?
My proposal goes against our initial reaction. But I think the answer is to fail again. And again. And again.
Keep failing until it doesn't hurt anymore. Until the sting is gone. Until you have no choice but to accept that failure may happen.
Because failure is an option.
And if you're honest, failure is the default option more than you want to admit.
The uncomfortable truth is that we can never guarantee we won't fail.
But we can guarantee that the possibility of failure won't rob ourselves and others of our best effort.
The longer you hold on to your work, the longer you have nothing to show for it. The longer your work is just a sunk cost. The longer people question whether you've done anything at all.
At some point you just have to hit Publish. Yeah, the work has its flaws. But don't let that rob the world of your work's charm. Because once you hit Publish, it's there, serving as proof of your sacrifices.
See, this is important to me. Here's the proof.