Trading Perfectionism for Productivity

Trading Perfectionism for ProductivityIf you are one of the millions of people filling out a March Madness bracket this week, you are more likely to become an astronaut than you are to pick all the winners. The best odds are 1 in 128 billion according to the NCAA!

Yet we still play and accept that we simply want to pick the most winners. That’s how you win the pool. You win by minimizing your losses. It’s all on paper, and the results are in the hands of the teams who are playing. But this mindset can translate to our real work, to what we can control. The way we approach March Madness can improve our productivity.

What High Performers Know

Failure is integral to success. That’s what I observed over and over with the athletes and coaches that I represented. The Major League Baseball players knew that the only time they batted 1.000 was their first few plate appearances, if that. A team’s ability to recover quickly from adversity is the difference between good and great. There are rarely perfect seasons, so the ability to move forward from a mistake is critical. Sometimes the teams that struggle early are the ones that are still around in late March. They have been battle tested and they’ve had to respond to adversity before, so they know how to handle it.

Coaches like Nick Saban embrace imperfection by focusing on what they can control. Their process of preparing and executing is what they can influence, and they pour themselves into that. They love the work they are doing as they anticipation of success.

Just like any of us picking our brackets, there are so many factors coaches cannot control (whether their players avoid injury, whether they end up in the right bracket or schedule, and whether the breaks go their way). The best don’t spend energy chasing perfection as defined by anyone else, and staying focused has produced dominant teams that win far more often than they lose.

Great is Not Perfect

When I think about basketball greatness, Pat Summitt always comes to mind. A coach so gifted at molding a different set of players every season into winners, for 38 years.

And yet, Pat would be the first to tell you that her record is built on simply winning more than losing. Not perfection. She focused on getting her team ready for the NCAA tournament, to erase as many of their imperfections during the regular season so they could be ready for a run at the national title.

They won eight national championships, and her greatness is that she positioned them so often for this opportunity. Tennessee advanced to 18 Final Fours in her tenure, and when all was said and done, had won 112 games in the NCAA tournament.

In the Summitt era, if you followed the odds, you’d bet your bracket on her team going all the way. But you know what? Tennessee wasn’t perfect. It lost 23 games in March Madness, too.

Embracing Imperfection Enables Risk

The power of embracing imperfection is that it allows you to accept more risk (picking any No. 14 seeds this year?) This is so important in our real work. It is the way we grow. Perfectionism leads to a fixed mindset, and keep us from tapping our courage.

One place we see this happening is with our children, especially our daughters. A recent TED Talk by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, makes the point that when we raise children to be perfect, we are not encouraging them to be brave. Taking risks is the way we move society forward through innovation. “Tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection,” Reshma says.

I think we all need to hear that!

Your Game Changer Takeaway 

Bracketology is one way of understanding that when we let go of the expectation of perfection, we can focus on the progress we are making. Too often perfectionism prevents us from reaching our goals. The fear of imperfection can even be suffocating. Let go of perfect and get in the game, keep going, and ultimately reach your unique success.

Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world.  Her e-learning courses spark both  personal growth for individuals and corporate development for organizations. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.