“Perfection is the enemy of the good.” ~ Voltaire
I think the universe is sending me a message. Over the past few days, I’ve received email newsletters with similar themes from a couple of folks I admire. Two of the newsletters have come from Dorie Clark, recognized as one of the world’s top business thinkers. She’s the best-selling author of four leadership books (by the way, two of them: Reinventing You and Entrepreneurial You — both Amazon Kindle links — are among the most influential career books I’ve read).
In her recent posts, Dorie writes about “backing off” from perfection and from overworking. Her argument is that pursuing both won’t be helpful, especially in the long term.
Deciding what to be bad at
That’s actually the title of Dorie’s first post. She cites a couple of authors she admires who initiated the concept that in order to achieve greatness, you have to decide what to be bad at.
Striving for perfection everywhere, all the time is impossible. We just can’t be great at everything. We need to calculate where to invest our time and energy, as well as “where to skimp.” Individuals who make those hard choices tend to be more successful.
Don’t focus on your job at the expense of your career
This was the other post Dorie sent. Her premise here is that we have to be smart about balancing our long-term and short-term interests.
I’ve written a lot about re-framing our skills in terms of the value we provide to our organizations. We need to be careful, though, because if we provide too much of a good thing, we can hold ourselves back. If we become invaluable in our job to our boss or to the organization, we may not be able to advance in our career because that boss can’t imagine how to function without us.
Dorie notes how the irony of being exemplary in our current job can lead to negative long-term professional consequences. “If you work so hard that you burn yourself out, or neglect professional networking, or fail to develop new skills because you’re so busy exploiting the ones you already have, you’re putting yourself at long-term risk.”
Dorie encourages us to look at careers as a marathon and equip ourselves with the right tools for success five, ten, and twenty years from now.
What are the lessons here?
The underlying message from Dorie is that we have to take responsibility for advancing our own careers. We need to be in control of how we move forward.
By deciding what to spend our energy on — what we’ll be great at and what we won’t — and being aware of the long-term consequences of our decisions, we’ll have more control over our destinies. We just can’t afford to leave it to others to help us along.
By the way, the other influential post was from Chris Brogan who let his newsletter subscribers know that he was taking a week off from his job. He’s just going to “chill out,” and focus on things other than his current work — like outline his next book project, spend time with friends and family, and meditate. He’ll take a break from the “nonstop onslaught.” Because guess what? It’ll be there when he gets back.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts about Dorie’s and Chris’s admonitions to “chill out,” decide what actions to sacrifice on the altar of perfectionism, and be aware of the long-term aspects of your career, rather than focus on over-pleasing the folks in your current job?
Talk to me, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear what you’ve got to say.
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If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.
Image copyright: faithie