Procrastination and Imperfect Action - Christine Kane

Mastery is not a destination, it’s an evolution. The way you become great at something is learning through your mini failures (and sometimes big ones). 

Once you achieve your goal, whatever it is, you’ll realize it wasn’t so much about getting the goodies at the end of the rainbow, but about becoming the person you evolved into along the way.

Listen in to hear the story of my first music gig and how taking that job – even though I wasn’t ready for it – turned into a full year of paid performances, and set me on a path of learning to be a successful, self-managed musician. Plus, I’ll share 4 symptoms you can spot when it’s time for you to just start, even if you don’t feel ready… in business or life.

We’ll get into how perfectionism keeps us from starting that very scary thing, and I’ll give you 4 strategies to help you take those first bold steps … spoiler: it’s kinda like tricking your ego into doing the thing it believes you’re not good enough to do.

I’ll tell you how I personally broke free from the need to prove myself to my ego, or anyone else for that matter!

Episode Transcript

The way we work with the ego is to trick it. And we do that by taking imperfect action.

Welcome to the Soul-SourcedTM Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative secretly sensitive and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host, Christine Kane. Let’s do this.

Welcome my friends to episode number 16 of the Soul-SourcedTM Business Podcast. And today we’re talking about taking action, in particular, we are taking a specific kind of action, which is Imperfect Action. And just so you know how aligned I am with this topic, I will simply state that starting this podcast in and of itself, was a form of imperfect action, since so many internet marketers and business experts are telling us that it’s too late to start a podcast, that it’s all been done, and you should find something else to do. I went ahead and started one. And the other thing that I do, which is pretty unusual, is that I don’t go look around at other podcasts. I don’t go explore the terrain to see what I should be talking about. I am really in truly looking to my clients. I look to my week, I listened to the emails I get from you and the comments you’ve left on, uh, on the podcast. And I so appreciate them. All of this is pretty imperfect because it can be very tough to tune into your own voice, your own self and who you are. I think all of us have such a deep mistrust of ourselves that it’s hard to rely on who we are and what our voice is.

And I just got a great comment this week that I wasn’t able to see until now, because this one came in from Germany and it’s under the podcast on Apple. And what she said, just totally lights me up. And she said that there are several points I really appreciate, you take one topic, focus on that, show up the problems and then jump into several possibilities for how to handle this. I really like your voice. The topics immediately hit important questions I am facing. And then she goes on to say, I like it. How you just toss away things that do not work. Like I don’t want to waste your time on why and your description of the “Why Hole” I like it. I hear it with tiny laughters and I am glad that other techniques follow that seemed to work better. So to sum up, I can recommend this podcast to everyone. And I already sent the link to friends of mine, and we talk about it and I’m looking forward to your next title. And while time goes by, I am already integrating your ideas into my life. So this is one comment, and it means so much to me to read these and that bypasses any and all perfectionism, because perfectionism says it’s gotta be millions. It’s gotta be perfect. It’s gotta be whatever rules you have in your head.

And so, I’m also going to challenge myself to create this episode imperfectly in that I’ve set up an outline. I’m not going to overthink it like I can do with some of these topics. And I’m gonna just going to keep my focus on getting valuable information out there to you in the same way that I would coach a client to do, not going to worry about every last facet and angle, or getting too obsessive about it, which is no small task for me. And so I will offer you this. If you hate this episode, you can simply confirm that you were right and that imperfect action is a sham. And then you can go back to waiting for perfection. And of course likely never do anything again, because nothing will ever be perfect enough.

As I tell my clients, waiting for perfection, I call this one of the “Eight Waits” which I’ll teach to you eventually. Waiting for perfection is the most convenient way to never have to be uncomfortable, to never have to do anything. So let’s talk about waiting really quick. The topic of imperfect action implies that there is some form of procrastination going on. Procrastination is a form of waiting. Some sort of putting off the thing you either want to do or know you should do or keep saying you’ll do. So let’s talk about procrastination. For one thing, procrastination Isn’t always a terrible thing. As many of you know, I use the “Colby A Index” in my coaching with clients. And if you’re, what’s known as a Quickstart on the Colbys, you are wired up for deadlines. You’re wired up to procrastinate. You’re a last minute deadline driven person.

And while you may have been shamed all of your life for this, it’s actually part of your superpower. And you may have to get used to the fact that deadlines and dates are your friend. And we’ll talk about that later. With that said, there are other reasons we procrastinate and most of them have some kind of fear or judgment or need to be perfect attached to them. In many of you know, that the coaching circle that I lead here at Uplevel is called “M Club”. And M is a very intentional letter in that it stands for all the things that are important to entrepreneurs like marketing and money and mindset. In one of those M’s is the word mastery imperfect action may sound at first, like it’s directly counter to the idea of mastery, but it’s not at least not in the way I define it.

Mastery is not a place that you arrive at. It’s a process that you’re in all the time, if that’s your intention, and you have to make that process, one of imperfect, at least to you, imperfect steps and mistakes and many failures, and sometimes big failures. And this is why so many of my clients have ultimately hit levels of success they never dreamed possible, because they finally got out of their way and created marketing materials and they learn how to sell. And they created content and they launched programs and they, they make events happen. They build new pricing structures. They’re always encouraged to start imperfectly, which to me is what mastery is all about. One of the quotes that gets bandied about the internet fairly regularly is Jim Collins, his famous “good is the enemy of great” which, well I’m sure he meant it for the corporations and companies that he was working with. When taken out of context is enough to make anyone stay in bed like all day long, forever.

I despise that quote in music, people used to say things like “you’re only as good as your last performance”. And when you think about, Oh yeah, great. So I was traveling through North Dakota in a snow storm. I had a sore throat and I had all of three people show up and you’re going to tell me, this is as good as I am now. And that’s going to help me how? So I am here to tell you that this shit needs to go. The real question is what makes you happy? What do you want to do? Can you enjoy it? Can you be delighted in it? The pressure. That kind of pressure is actually probably the reason I quit ballet and almost didn’t play music for a living because I grew up in a highly intellectual academic classical music focused household. And if it wasn’t Schubert or Pavarotti… Pavarotti, I said that in perfectly, sorry, dad, it wasn’t art. So it was that kind of a thing. And that’s the trap that ultimately I escaped. And I did that by using the very things that I’m going to talk with you about today.

And I will tell you that that has been the biggest victory of all. I could win Grammys. I could win Emmys or what other, whatever other award you could throw my way. And my biggest victories of all are about breaking free of the insidious need to prove that I’m perfect or prove that I am worthy or whatever else we all struggle with. And, and besides any kind of elite performance that we’re talking about has to begin with imperfect action, imperfect beginnings. The great thing about them is they can be tweaked into higher levels of mastery, but no one begins at least with kind of mental or emotional health by expecting perfection.

So let’s talk about you. I want you to first consider what is something that you have been putting off and take time to really think about this. Some kind of action. It can be big or small, some kind of project. It can be big or small, something that you’ve been putting off and then consider what kind of thing is it? So I have found that there are two kinds of things that perfectionism destroys and keeps us putting them off. The first is habits and or healthy ways of being and living. And the other is actual projects, some kind of events, some kind of action, something that has a definable outcome, like writing your book or creating your first online training or some idea that you’ve had that you keep for whatever reason putting off. So when you think of the thing you’ve been putting off, which of those two categories, does it fall under?

Is it habit based or is it getting that thing done and doing the imperfect action to get it done? And before we look at some strategies that might help you, let’s talk about the symptoms that point to the need for taking imperfect action. The first one is what I call the “More Facts Please Syndrome”. And this is when you tell yourself, you need to get just a little more information before you’re going to try something or even another certification before you’ll try something and you keep telling yourself that, and then you keep getting more information and it’s just never enough information. It’s never enough certifications. You just keep placing that little more facts, please, bar just a little bit higher above your head.

The second one is what I call the “Used to Be’s”. So that’s when you tell yourself, Oh my God, I used to be so good at this. Or I used to weigh 130 pounds. I used to be so thin. I used to write every day and now look. So for me and for actually for any of us who have gone through quarantine, we now are facing a whole lot of this syndrome. There’s a lot of Used to Be’s those people who were saying things like this year started off so good. I was on a roll. I used to be so successful and now I’m not. Or for me, I used to be able to do 10 pull ups. And I used to have a back squat PR of 210. And guess what I don’t right now, because quarantine happened and our job is to let go of this thing, this paddle we are using called the Used to Be’s and really, and truly find the great victory here, which is stepping back into some semblance of a routine, really imperfectly. And there’s a joy that can happen when you do that.

The third symptom is what I call the “Broken Me Saga”. So if you have that broken me saga, going on your mantra to the world is usually something like I’m just so overwhelmed or there’s so much to do. And it’s so hard to be me. And then maybe you call your friends and your coworkers and you all collude and you give each other sympathy for how hard it is to accomplish your goals and dreams. And everyone agrees with you citing how special you are because you’ve been given so much talent and how it must be quite a burden. And I’m sort of joking about this, but it’s key to note that often times the first story we tell is that we are too broken in some way, shape or form. That’s just perfectionism. Perth, use your words, Christine, that’s perfectionism, rearing its ugly head.

And the last symptom is what I call input addiction. And this means you spend more time than you should. More than one hour a day on Facebook watching TV, going through Netflix or some other addictive activity. Only you can know what that is. Now. I’m not here to diagnose you or tell you that any of these symptoms are wrong. All they are is just the way that any ego, worth its name, likes to keep you from being uncomfortable. You might be able to add your own to the list, but these are the ones that I see and hear about time and time again. And they are subtle and they feel true and they feel real and they feel right, but they are just the stories we tell ourselves over and over. And the way we work with the ego is to trick it. And we do that by taking imperfect action.

So before we look at a few ways, we’re going to do that. I’m going to share the story of getting my first music gig. When I knew for a fact that I wasn’t ready to do my first gig, that I wasn’t good enough to do my first gig and I didn’t have enough songs or talent to do my first gig. So at this time I had been writing songs and learning songs in my tiny kitchen at my apartment. And I kept talking about going out and getting a gig, but I kept not being ready. And then my friend David Lamott, he had to cancel a weekend of gigs that he had scheduled at a bar in black mountain. And he told the guy who owned the bar about me and that he really wanted me to do the weekend. And then David came and told me, and every cell in my body went into a state of panic.

I had only a month until that weekend. And there was so much about me that wasn’t ready. Like I didn’t have a sound system and I didn’t know enough songs yet, and I wasn’t perfect yet or even very good, but I accepted the challenge and I started preparing and I remember I made, I made some really shitty posters and I was frantically trying to master all these new songs because I had only written about six of my own at that point. And who wanted to hear my songs. And I didn’t have enough songs by the time that that night rolled around and I had to do three whole sets of music. So I made this decision, this very imperfect decision. And I decided that I would just do, I would learn and know two sets of music. And then for my third set, I would play my first set all over again.

And I would throw in maybe one of my original songs at that point to make it extend a little longer. And I will tell you guys that by the third set that night, everyone in the Town Pump Tavern in black mountain, North Carolina was so damn drunk that no one knew whether I was playing my third set. My first set, if I was playing Stevie Nicks or Stevie Ray Vaughan or Stevie wonder, but I did it. And then I did it the next night too. Cause I had two nights to do these gigs and I got paid and I had my first weekend of gigs and Bill Hartness, who is the owner of Town Pump. He pulled out the calendar for the whole next year and he made me choose a weekend every single month. And I was officially a paid musician. It was on the calendar for the entire next year. And I had to now live into that.

If I had waited for perfection, it wouldn’t have happened. And if Bill had heard Jim Collins quote, it wouldn’t have happened, but it was a humble beginning. And it taught me how to stop beating the living shit out of myself with standards that were so high. I couldn’t even move. I always teach my clients that we set intentions, not because of all the goodies we’ll get with the outcome, but that we set intentions because of who we become as we evolve into that outcome. And this also applies to having a business at all. You always hear business strategists and coaches saying that they’re well meaning things, but they always say things like, well, if you want to have your own business, you have to be a good manager and you have to be great with data and numbers and you’re going to, and they list all these things as if we all have add that when we started. And we don’t.

For me that night, that imperfect night, set me on a path of learning, how to be my own boss and learning how to perform music for a living. It started me on the road to discovering all of these things, not because I knew how to do them, but because I knew how to take imperfect action. And if you’re anything like me or the thousands of clients I’ve worked with, having a business will teach you how to heal everything from rampant perfectionism to raging self-criticism to the belief that you aren’t good at left brain stuff, or that you always get overwhelmed. And that’s because you learn to be present and intimate with any number of things that you may currently feel incapable of doing. It really does force you to live into them and recognize what is actually true here and what actually isn’t true.

So let’s talk about how to take imperfect action and about a few strategies that you can live by on your own journey of entrepreneurial-ism. The first is what I just shared, and that is the power of the date. So you set a date, you put it in the calendar, whether it’s a webinar or a small retreat, you’re going to host or a gig or a virtual workshop, you put it in the calendar and you tell people it’s happening. That is the number one way QuickStarts and entrepreneurs and procrastinators end up doing the things that they are terrified to do. The second one, similar to that one, but it’s the deadline, same basic premise. So it is said that the very best invention of all time is the deadline, because without it, there would be no other inventions. And it’s so very true. So any kind of deadline you can set for yourself.

And that brings me to the third one, and that’s another variation of this same theme and that is accountability. So one of the many reasons that coaching and masterminds work so well is because accountability is created at M Club, we have trainings for how to be accountability buddies because that process works so well. And when you have someone to check in with week after week and you make sure you don’t tell stories, you don’t collude, you don’t agree how imperfect you each are. You simply keep each other on track and you call each other out. If you get off track, then this teaches you how to not worry about how you’re feeling or all these stupid judgements that your perfectionist brain wants to make on you. Now, in terms of the actual doing of the thing you want to do, be it habit or project.

The number one way I know to start moving forward on each of these things is a tactic that I simply call small chunks of time. Simply, put small chunks of time or how you trick the ego out of thinking you’re actually doing the task itself. You don’t get back to the gym by planning to go for an hour. You get back to the gym by showing up and doing 15 minutes of whatever the hell you feel like. And then you do it again the next day. And then when you feel ready, you add on five more minutes or 10 more minutes. And then when you feel ready after that, maybe you create a little routine that you’re going to do. And it’s the same thing with writing or any other project. You plan a time, you set a timer and the timer is very important by the way.

And you do the thing, even if that’s just sitting there for the duration as your timer runs down and you do nothing else during that time. And when the timer dings, you get up and you go about your day and then you show up the next day and you do the same thing. And all of this is a way that you trick your ego out of thinking it’s doing the activity. You’re not good enough to do so. Neil Gaiman, who is rockstar author, and one of my favorite audio book, narrators of his own, truly spectacular books. He says that he writes, and I don’t remember where I heard him say this. It was in an interview and I couldn’t find it and I’m being imperfect. But I heard him say that he writes by sitting down with only one goal in mind, that he has to sit at his computer. And the only activity he’s allowed to do is write or sit there. And eventually that means that he writes. And so nothing else can be open, no other activities around all he does is either right or sit there.

So if you were to set a timer for 20 minutes every day and give yourself the two options, either sit there or focus on the activity, what you will eventually discover is that you are capable of imperfect action. The problem is that a lot of us sit down to do these things and we have a million windows open in our browser and we have a million things around us to distract us. We don’t have a rule set that says, I’m just going to sit here and do this thing, or just sit here. And you eventually trick the ego into all right, fine, all right? It’s just what happens or all right, fine, I’ll do whatever it is.

So I’m going to close this episode, by sharing three things not to do. In fact, these three things will try to convince you that you need to do them. But what you must realize is that these three things are part of the pattern of perfectionism. The first thing not to do is ask yourself why you’re so fucked up. Like I got to figure out why I’m such a perfectionist. No, you don’t. No, you don’t like how is this going to help anybody? The second thing not to do is to try to process all of the reasons and ways you are so fucked up. Again, not necessary to do the thing. And the third thing not to do is wait until you’re not so fucked up before you’ll begin the dreaded task or project. That is called waiting for perfection. And it’s one of what I call “The Eight Waits” here at Uplevel. One final note about all of this is the idea of dread.

A lot of us dread doing certain activities. And so he put them off and the dread keeps haunting us. And there’s this weird idea of dread. And a few years ago, I wrote a short blog post called “Christine’s Proportional Theory of Dread”, which has two components. And I will leave you with this. Number one is that the amount of dread you feel is directly proportional to the feeling of relief you’ll feel once you simply complete the dreaded task. And number two, is that the longer you put something off, the more perplexed you’ll be that you didn’t just do the thing you were dreading sooner once you actually do it.

So everyone, thanks for listening to this episode. And thank you again for the five star reviews you’ve given me here. I’m, I’m so grateful and I’m grateful for the comments that you’ve been kind enough to leave me.

And they’ve been so much fun to read. We are getting closer and closer to the release date of my book. It’s called The Soul-SourcedTM Entrepreneur An Unconventional Success Plan for the Highly Creative, Secretly Sensitive, and Wildly Ambitious. And if that sounds like you, you can go pick it up on for pre-sale. And if you are subscribed to this podcast, I will alert you when next week’s episode goes up. And, uh, thank you everybody. I so appreciate your feedback. And, uh, being able to have these conversations with you. I will see you on our next episode.