“Winners take Imperfect Action while others are perfecting their plans.”     – Kevin Nations

Now that 14 years have passed since the very first gig I ever did, I have a confession to make.

At the time, I was working hard at getting three sets of songs ready for the day I got the courage to play my first bar gig. But, as often happens in this mystical magical Universe, an opportunity got tossed in my lap before anyone realized that I was grossly unprepared to take it.

My friend David LaMotte had to cancel his weekend of gigs at the Town Pump Tavern. David called to offer me the weekend. As he spoke, I immediately needed to throw up.

“I’m not ready,” I told him.

“Sure you are,” he said.

I knew I had no choice. I had to plan for imperfect action rather than perfect my plans.

Which brings me to my confession.

On both Friday and Saturday night – even though I didn’t have three sets of songs ready – I played three sets of songs.

Did I take an Evelyn Wood speed-song-learning class and flub my way through American Pie and Margaritaville?

No.

Did I stay up night and day that week practicing and practicing until I had the exact number of songs perfect and ready?

Nope.

Did I set up a karaoke machine and sing Blue Bayou and I Write the Songs?

Huh-uh.

When the third set came around, I played the exact same songs as my first set.

This was a bold move for me. I thought the crowd would come at me with torches, shouting, “Burn her!”

But, as it turned out, everyone was so drunk by the third set, no one noticed. (And when it comes right down to it, no one was listening all that hard anyway!)

Then, you know what happened?

One guy – a Shakespeare troupe actor who was in town that weekend – put a hundred dollar bill in my tip jar that night and told me never to give up.

And the bar owner pulled out his calendar for the next year and offered me one full weekend a month for the whole year.

Guess no one got the memo that I wasn’t ready for my first gig.

Last weekend, I was at the Monetize Your Mission Event in Las Vegas – hosted by Kevin Nations, and one of my own coaches, Lisa Sasevich. The theme of the weekend was “Imperfect Action.” For some reason, it made me think of that weekend at the Town Pump Tavern. If I had said “no” to that opportunity, I might have waited forever til I got it perfect. Sitting at my kitchen table playing my songs to no one.

Hey, it happens.

One of my first guitar teachers, a brilliant Chamber music guitarist, wouldn’t let himself perform – at even the tiniest festivals and rooms – until he had a certain number of songs memorized perfectly. He was forever planning his first gig.

Don’t let this be you!

The trick to success, especially when you’re trying something new, is taking imperfect action. Here’s exactly three reasons why:

1 – Taking Imperfect Action, teaches you about abundance.

The people who get stuck in the “wait til it’s perfect” trap believe there’s one and only one chance to “make it.” Taking imperfect action says, “There’s always more chances!”  And there are!

2 – When you take Imperfect Action, you’re discovering yourself, not waiting to be discovered.

So many people are waiting to be discovered, approved of, noted, validated – always by someone “more important” than they are. Taking imperfect action makes you discover yourself. Once you realize that being unstoppable is simply about taking the next step, then you have absolutely no need to be discovered. Any validation that comes is like icing on the cake.

3 – When you take imperfect action, you learn that there’s no such thing as failure.

If you do something imperfectly, and you “fail,” then the lesson is to try again imperfectly. See how liberating this is? If you like to tell people or yourself that you tried and failed, then it’s time to take imperfect action again!

——-

So, let me ask you something.

What idea have you been putting off, waiting until you (and it) are perfect?  What’s your next imperfect action step?

58 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Rahul G

    Just what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Kathleen

    Christine…the awesome Ali Edwards left a link to this today and I just wanted you to know how much it resonated with me. This coming Saturday I will host my first ever “Katydid Studio” booth at my hometown July 4th Flea Market. I have spent most of the last few weeks vasilating about it and I finally just put the check in the mail and went for it. I still have my moments…just last weekend I was all stressed over which card designs and how people will not buy my stuff and finally I just had to shut the voice up and create like I do for my family and friends….thanks for telling us to be imperfect and JUST DO IT!

  • Deb Newell

    I love this post. Thank you, just what I needed to hear.

  • Annette

    Don’t you just love it when you read or hear something and those tears of truth come to your eyes! What a wonderful story and thank you for the valuable reminder. I think I will print this post out and hang it somewhere to remind me how important it is to take action rather than to sit around and wait for perfection – which never really happens.

  • TracyWall

    Oh my, I just LOVE this post!
    It was so necessary for this to come my way: I’m preparing for an art festival and have been feeling like I just don’t have enough (quality, not quantity) ready. Questions mount up: what should I do? what should I do? So much so I’m stalled and stagnating because none of the ideas was “perfect”.
    Thank you so much for the spur!

  • Jana

    How imperfectly perfect timing! I just posted a portrait I painted on my blog, and the story behind it—and how I’m learning that it’s ok to not obsess over every detail! Love what you wrote—thanks!

  • Teresa

    Exactly what I needed to hear… at the time I needed to hear it. Thank you, thank you!

    Found your blog through a blog friend… Laurie Ferlita of Painted Thoughts Blog… and am so glad she pointed me your way!

  • emgil3

    Christine,
    If it weren’t for imperfection we wouldn’t need serendipity and all its joys. I just finished a blog entry (http://impracticalpoetry.blogspot.com/) about the art of failure that discusses, in vastly different language, the very use of imperfection you so ably urge in your entry. It’s a large and useful topic. Many thanks.

  • Beth

    Christine,

    I was cleaning out my basement this weekend and came across your first CD – which I bought from you when you visited my college (Elizabethtown College) sometime in 1996. I adored the CD and somewhere along the way misplaced it.

    I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to not only find the CD, but also discover you’ve produced more! And that you have a blog! I’m looking forward to exploring both 😀

  • Deb

    Now that my divorce is final and I’m into my own place, just the rest of my life. But I’m starting with a booth at the community garage sale. I sent in the space reservation this morning even though I haven’t figured out exactly what to sell, how much to sell it for, or how I will do this on my own; but I have 3 weeks to figure it out. And afterward my new life will have more space and more cash to invest in the next project.

  • Lillithmother

    Man oh man, this is a perfect imperfect post for me to serendipidously find Christine, because I’m stumbling through changes right now that are important for my sense of self, and I’ve got no road map or perfect plan of how to navigate my way successfully through it. I’m going on pure intuition, and support from my tribe and that good old tenacity I promised myself I would resurrect for 2009! I think I may have to bookmark this one, it’s so relevant!!

    Thank you Christine from the bottom of my heart!

    Leaping,
    Lil

  • Sukie Curtis

    Great post, Christine (as usual)! Good for me to read as I work through steps to get a website together and at times worry that it’s not just right!

  • Tim (360 Degree Self)

    Thanks Christine for your story and reminder for all of us. The more we age, the more we need to be reminded of this. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, which sometimes stops me from taking action. But there are other times where, despite my tendency of perfection, I have acted – and in these cases, I feel like I have been really rewarded.

  • Sandie Barrie

    Hey this Twitter thing is a real kick, it will be fun to follow you 😉 keep putting out the good stuff, the world needs more positive thinking!!

  • Genesis

    I discovered your blog last night while searching for “vision boards” on Google and have stayed to read. I’m really impressed with every single post so far, they are all true and all so inspiring. I’ve passed your blog on to my sister who is in desperate need of encouragement right now (we’re doing vision boards together long distance) and will also be adding you to my blogroll on my work at home mom blog. Thank you!

  • ann

    Very inspirational! As a writer and non-perfectionist, I sometimes feel guilty that I am working on too many projects, rather than focusing on one piece and making it perfect. Glad to hear the argument for imperfect action.

  • Ana

    Yes, Christine: I think like you. Always solve the problems on the fly. I like to go into action without planning too much. When I paint I don’t too preparatory sketches, because when I come to the canvas I have already bored. Good luck!!. I love your enterprising nature. Greetings from Spain

  • Giovanna Garcia

    This is my first time here. My friend Positively Present told me about this post and I am very glad I came. It is always nice to meet like minded people, my whole life’s message is all about this. Nice work, I enjoyed read your post.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  • Kelsey

    This really rings true with me today. A job I was hoping to get in the future has recently been eliminated at the school I was hoping to work at. BUT there is another job opening now, in another school, that I might not have considered – holding out for the one I always imagined I would get. This current opening would be a chance for me to use my degree, albeit in a slightly different setting than I’d imagined. Perhaps it is time to stop waiting for that “perfect” job.

  • David LaMotte

    I sure am glad I double-booked that gig. 🙂

    Well-spoken, Christine, as usual. There’s a wonderful presentation of this idea in a political rather than artistic context in one of my favorite books, Soul of a Citizen by Paul Loeb. He calls it “the Perfect Principle,” which a lot of us operate from daily. Basically, the perfect principle says that before you can get to work on an issue that’s important to you, you need to have four things: 1) the perfect issue (no one can find another issue that they can argue is more important to be working on than the one that’s important to you), 2) perfect knowledge of the issue, so you can authoritatively and thoroughly answer any question someone puts to you about it, 3) a perfect plan – to fix it entirely, not just make it a little better, and 4) perfect motivation, there can be nothing in it for you, it must be purely altrustic, otherwise you’re a hypocrite.

    The thing is, no effective movement in history has ever passed even one of these tests, much less all of them. My favorite is the last one. Of course there’s some payoff. At the very least, you feel better about yourself. Nothing wrong with that.

    Thanks, Christine, for courageously putting your beautifully imperfect, powerful and staggeringly beautiful art out into the world, and for telling your story. We’re all better for it.

  • Lisa

    Christine,

    Just when I think you have written my favorite post you go and write another one that I love even more.

    You are such a special person and you are talented beyond belief.

    I held my second Social Media Workshop today – thanks for your support and encouragement to do the first one! Neither were perfect but everyone was asking for more!

    Lisa

  • Diana

    Wow! Thanks for this post. I’ve recently become serious about doing artwork and am in a huge self-teaching and book reading mode, as well as actually doing art.

    I gave away some pieces as gifts this past year and received a confusing comment from my mother, a person who professes to be an artist but never really finishes anything: “Wow, that was brave of you to give away gifts of your artwork. I’m so jealous.” When I pressed her to explain she said that she felt jealous because I’ve learned so fast.

    There’s a lot more learning to do (will I ever stop? hmm.) but I’m having fun just letting go and letting it all be what it is. Practicing every day helps and I enjoy the peace creativity brings. Being a teacher, it is nice to not know what I’m doing and having to go through what my kids go through all day long.

    My art is okay. I’m keeping journals so that I can see progress. And, I’m continuing to be “bold” enough to give away artwork that isn’t very perfect.

    So what. It’s fun and I love it.

  • Lora

    Well, it seems like I unknowingly already took Imperfect Action! Nice to have a name for my foolishness. I lost a job and had too much time on my hands. The economy is bad and there were so many cancellations at a local Crafts Market that I decided to take a booth. I haven’t done a show in 7 years and don’t have enough jewelry for a three day show!!! Yikes. Am I nuts?

    So a friend helped me build a gorgeous table, I dug out old displays and decided that they’re not tooo horrible and I put out every single piece of jewelry that I have. I’m a teacher so most of it is classroom demos and samples. I had 21 earrings and 25 necklaces! Fancy that. Not enough, but more than I thought I had. I’m furiously filling in, finishing the samples that have been lying around, making new pieces and realizing that if I want to continue to sell, I need to develop a cohesive line.

    So my inactivity has spurred me into future plans. Nice.

  • Kirsten

    Pretty much all my actions are imperfect and I’m getting used to it, if not learning to enjoy it. I’ve put off doing the things I’ve wanted to do for years (literally) simply because I didn’t think I was ready, or the timing wasn’t perfect, or because it wasn’t as easy as I wanted it to be. But, the past 4 months have been all about jumping in and learning to swim the waters as I go along. I started my blog and I’ve been performing plays and film since taking the great leap of faith. Even though some of it has been challenging, I wouldn’t trade the opportunities and experiences for anything. Thanks for writing this post. This gives me great validation.
    I enjoy your articles and emails so much!

  • Jeb

    Fantastic post Christine. Often times, for me, the fear of imperfect action is masked by the label ‘not knowing what to do’. But it’s all the same, really. We just have to go. Do. Be. Try. Something. Anything.

    Right now. And then again. And again. Thank you.

  • Marie

    Really needed this today – great advice, good timing, thank you.

  • Giulietta

    Hi Christine!

    Love the post. I’ve started taking my own imperfect action with setting up my first teleseminar. Just doing it will be my success! Just to get over that hurdle and have one under my “new things” belt. The irony is that I’ve done some unbelievably hard things in my life, way, way harder than hosting a teleseminar!

    Thanks for all you do!

    Giulietta
    Rebel at large …

  • Mindful Mimi

    Christine,
    I have a motto of the day which I use on my Lotus Notes at work for everyone to see. Today’s was: Progression not perfection. I used to progress and just go on, give things a try when I was young(er). Then, education, fallbacks with the wrong comments and life happened to me and fear settled in. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of other people’s opinion. I am still not cured 🙂 but I am taking action, I am progressing. I am not attempting perfection anymore, I am not waiting to be discovered. I am on a roll – woohooh!
    Thanks for this.
    Mimi

  • Deanne

    Fabulous post! I have been putting off creating my own artist’s website. This helps me nudge it towards being live, “warts and all”. Thanks

  • Christine Kane

    Wow. Great additional thoughts. And of course, it’s good to hear that some butts got nudged into motion! 🙂 I, too, need to remind myself of this kind of thing too. So, i’m inspired by you guys too!

    Kevin – thanks for a great weekend – and good inspiration for a blog post!

  • Jonathan Lockwood

    “Guess no one got the memo that I wasn’t ready for my first gig.”

    Ha! Reminds me of so many situations that have arisen in my life. I’ve come to embrace stepping along that precipice between comfort and terror!

  • Michelle Russell

    Hi, Christine–a friend “tweeted” about this post, and I had to laugh, it’s so right up my alley! (See the name of my website – )

    It’s amazing how caught up we get in trying to be perfect–how much energy we spend on it when, as your example demonstrates, pretty much no one else even notices.

    Ironically, I think people relate to us better when we’re not afraid to show our imperfections–when we’re willing to be authentic and vulnerable. It’s very scary to do that, though.

    Even though I’m blogging about this exact subject now, I STILL keep trying to hang onto the illusion that perfection is possible. Because how counterintuitive is it that imperfect action gets you places faster than aiming for perfection?

    “Once you realize that being unstoppable is simply about taking the next step…” So true. So simple. And yet so HARD.

    Thanks for the great reminder!

  • Kevin Nations

    Christine:

    Congratulations on beginning early and continuing the commitment to Imperfect Action or – just ‘getting into motion’. It was an honor to meet you in Vegas. I can’t wait to hear about your ongoing success!

  • Positively Present

    So true! Imperfect action is SO much better than no action at all. I’m not sure if you vistited the blog “Imperfect Action” or not, but you might enjoy it! 🙂

  • Catherine Cantieri, Sorted

    This is such a great reminder for a perfectionist like myself. I’m always “getting ready to do” stuff, but I need to just start doing, imperfectly. Thanks for another awesome post.

  • Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord

    This is magnificent, and once again (a recurrence when I read your blog) I’m sending it to friends. Thank you!

  • rabbi ann white

    Some of us are: Go, Ready, Set; Others are Ready…Set…Ready….Set…Ready…

    I guess I have always been the former. And it is not always easy. As a former trial lawyer, we were trained to jump up and holler “Objection” and then by the time we landed on our feet, something appropriate and legally sound was supposed to fly out of our well trained mouths. One day, after shouting “Objection” – I landed and out of my mouth flew, “Over my dead body!” To which the good ol’ boy judge responded, “Mzzzzz White, that can be arranged.”

    Being a rabbi is easier; writing my first book, The Sacred Art of Dog Walking, and having it critiques by an editor, was not. But through this Imperfection, through this Go, ready, set — I am glad I am moving forward and will try to use the criticism as a building block and not as a stumbling block.

  • Lu

    I love this post…I love just about every one you do. One of my mantras is perfectly imperfect. I strive for it everyday. In that imperfection, I discover so many things about myself and even some things I did not know about. My next imperfect action is finishing a book proposal. I have allowed BS fear to get in the way of doing. This week, today, in fact, I will start and enjoy the process of doing something I am very passionate about.

  • Tracy

    A perfect and perfectly timed post for me, once again. Thanks, Christine!

  • Laura

    Thanks, kid, for the funny and rich post. It reminds me when I decided that I was no longer going to be the perfect mom. You should have seen how big my daughters’ eyes grew, “Mom, you *really* think you were being the perfect mom?????”

  • Anna

    Sigh…it’s ironic that every time I find myself all twisted up in my head and worried that someone’s not going to like what I’ve done, you come along with a post like this! Now….got some writing to do….

  • Sue

    P.S. LOVE the photo here!!

  • Sue

    Thanks for this Christine! I can’t tell you the number of things in my life I never even tried because I felt I had to be perfect at something to do it in front of anyone. And there is still so much room for expansion here. Thank you for this!!

    🙂

  • inge

    thanks again! I just re-started taking imperfect action by posting clips of me playing guitar, imperfectly, and singing, imperfectly, on my blog. I needed to read this so much!

  • Lee

    Brilliant. Thank you so much for putting into words exactly how I’ve been feeling and trying to teach my oh so perfect friends. I must send them all over to read for themselves 🙂

  • Jeri

    But I’ve gotten really proficient at making very perfect plans 😉

    And it’s funny, I never actually follow my perfect plans. Life always gets in the way with its own agenda. Now if I would learn once and for all to get out of my own way, and jump off the perfection/procrastination hamster wheel. And let’s face it: we’re never completely ready. How can we be? The unexpected always seems to show up and ruins our careful choreography.

    Thank you, Christine, for a message that I need to hear over and over again until it sinks in for good!

    Blessings,

    Jeri

  • m

    can I also add that you can do your imperfect action with really terrible attitude as well but it still counts and still moves your forward !

  • Rhiannon

    Very true ! I used to be that perfectionist, who planned and planned as well. The e- seminar forerunner of Uplevel your life really helped me with exactly this – and I am currently in the middle of a big unplanned imperfect project.

    Not to wait until I had something all planned out, not to wait for permission from some “unknown authority” to do something. This spring I hosted a joint exhibition with my Dad which turned out to be a great experience all round – instead of waiting for someone to offer me the opportunity to show. And I set off on my “12 city project” last September with nothing mapped out further than a desire to use up my Polaroid film before it became unworkable and the idea to cover 12 cities in a year.

    I also always remind myself of the ideas in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that the only way to make a great painting is to make lots of bad paintings first.

  • melanie

    PS. so a link i had in there didn’t work so i had to follow up.
    how is that for imperfect! 🙂

  • Lisa

    Christine – thank you for this – my obsesso like behaviour for perfection often stops me from even starting and that’s sucky, so I’m going to start taking imperfect action – LOVE it!

  • melanie

    Christine,

    I feel like you read my mind tonight. I have been taking little baby steps. Very imperfect. All to do with new things-a new business journey, opening up, practices. I won’t lie in the ‘past’ (up until i started uplevel course I am currently in) I was that person that was perpetually planning or starting and then freezing.
    Now, i feel different. Like it is all ok. There is no there. There is no fail. Just lessons. Doing and learning new skills.
    Although, tonight when I ‘launched’ a newsletter sign up, I felt like being sick, what if people don’t sign up or think I am a total dork. Even with those thoughts, I heard them and I sent it anyway.
    YAY! All about trust and baby steps for me 🙂
    Thank you for sharing so selflessly. YOU’RE GROOVY!

  • pati

    Hi Christine,

    I have to laugh . . . I’m working on a paper which is already too long . . . yet I still have more to write . . . it’s due Friday . . . and I was starting to get nervous. Then, I read your post and had a light bulb moment: Whatever I have written by Friday will be enough. Imperfect maybe. But, enough. Many thanks! Pati