You know you're not lazy. You're a hardworking entrenpreneur pursuing your goals. You just need to finish a few things first, before you can go live. It's just that your product is not quite ready yet...
If that's how you feel, you're not alone. Most entrepreneurs would tell you they haven't launched their product / service / website yet, because they feel like it's not complete yet. It's just not good enough.
In fact, perfectionism is probably the most common reasons among entrepreneurs for not shipping. But remember: your job is to ship.
In the latest episode of the ActiveGrowth podcast, we're discussing why perfectionism is standing in the way not just of your business but also of growing your skills.
As always, we filled this episode with practical, actionable advice that you can start following right after listening to us!
Subscribe & Download
Listen on the go! Subscribe to the ActiveGrowth Podcast using your favorite app:
Shane Melaugh: Hello, and welcome to Episode Nine of the Active Growth podcast. Today, we continue in our series on the topic of, Your Job is to Ship. As a quick reminder, what we mean when we say, "Your job is to ship," is that your job is to finish things, is to publish things and get them out there into the world.
This is a fundamentally important entrepreneurial skill and it applies on a large scale, as well as on a small scale. What I mean by that, on a large scale, your job is to ship, your job is to finish and get something finished, and get your business, as a whole, launched and out into the world. Get that thing up and running, and producing something of value, so that, that's the foundation of your entire business. It's also important on a much smaller scale. Your job is also to ship the much, much smaller things, like finish writing and publish that blog post. Finish this video and publish it. Finish this ad campaign and publish it, and so on. It is a fundamentally important entrepreneurial skill, to be able to ship.
Unfortunately, it's also a fundamental and very common entrepreneurial problem. It's what we've called entrepreneurial procrastination. It's basically the opposite of shipping. It's basically doing everything that isn't shipping. It is procrastinating on the things that you really need to do, to move your business forward. We've talked about this on the last two episodes already, and we're continuing our deep dive into this topic. It is such an important and such a common problem that keeps entrepreneurs back.
Now, there are different forms of entrepreneurial procrastination. Some of them, as you'll see today, don't even feel like procrastination when you're doing them. What you'll discover in today's episode is, among other things, why it's actually not human nature at all to be an entrepreneur, and it's much more natural to procrastinate. We'll look at why that is and what you can do about it. You'll also see that what you measure and how you measure it in your business, makes a huge difference to your productivity. Spoiler alert, the stuff we most commonly measure is exactly the wrong stuff. It really sometimes seems like the world conspires against you, but we'll show you how to fix that.
We'll also learn about an experiment that was run in a pottery class, and why the outcome of that experiment is extremely important for how we design our work as entrepreneurs. We'll show you the one simple mindset switch that has helped Hanne, that has helped me, and many other entrepreneurs change your attitude to shipping and helped us overcome the fear of failure. All this and more is coming up, and you can go to activegrowth.com/9, to get all of the show notes and resources. That includes our three part, "Your Job is to Ship," online course, that you can sign up for, for free, and includes all the references, links, comments, books, and everything else that goes along with this episode. With that, let's get into it.
I'm Shane Melaugh.
Hanne Vervaeck: I'm Hanne Vervaeck.
Shane Melaugh: What we're talking about today, is the kind of entrepreneurial procrastination, that doesn't feel like procrastination. If you do this, if you do this kind of procrastination, if I come to you and I ask, "Are you procrastinating?" Then you'll tell me, "No, no. I'm working. I'm working. I'm doing things. I'm rewriting this bit, and I'm adding this feature, and I'm making this here a bit better. I'm looking for the perfect tool to do this." You're busy, but you're still not shipping. Of course, your job is to ship. The whole point of this series is to get you to the point where you're really, really good at efficiently shipping. Even though it doesn't feel like procrastination, in reality, you're still procrastinating because you're not doing the thing that you need to do. You're not delivering your work. It's basically like you're working, but you're doing it in secret, and you're avoiding launching. I call this, most commonly, this is basically procrastination by perfectionism. You always have a reason to put things off, and the reason is some form of, "This isn't good enough yet."
In today's episode, we will take a look at what causes this and what you can do about it. First of all, let's think about why does this happen? Why is this so common? In fact, let me start there. This is very common. If you do this and if you're listening to this and you're starting to feel guilty and go, "Oh my God. Yes, I do put off things. I do procrastinate by perfectionism," don't feel bad about it. First of all, you're not alone in this. This is such a common problem among entrepreneurs.
Hanne Vervaeck: I would go even further. I think the moment that you ask somebody, "Why didn't you do it yet?" Perfectionism is probably the most common answer.
Shane Melaugh: Yes. Entrepreneurial types are generally not lazy. It's not that they just don't do anything. If you're listening to this podcast, you're most likely in that group of people, where you basically keep yourself busy. You're always doing stuff. That's not the problem. The problem is that you don't get to that point of shipping. Let's think about, why is this so common? To think about that, let's ask ourself, "What's the biggest advantage of working on something, but not releasing it?" Generally, people do things for a good reason. They do things because it's good for them. What's the advantage? What do we get out of working on stuff, but not releasing it?
I love to think of it as an example of writing a book. I love this, because first of all, a lot of people have this as a goal, right? They think, "One day I'll write a book, I'll publish a book," and also so do I.
Hanne Vervaeck: I was just going to say, guilty.
Shane Melaugh: Yes. Absolutely. I do think of myself as someone who's going to write a book eventually. Let's say you want to write a book and you've started writing it. You have your document somewhere and you work on that occasionally. You are working on this book, you've got your file somewhere, your document that you work on. Maybe you've got a couple of chapters, you've got an outline. You've maybe got piles of notes, but you're nowhere near publishing it yet. This is a good position to be in, in many ways. You're working on this book, you've got your document, your doc file on your computer somewhere, that you're working on. You maybe have an outline, you probably have piles of notes and things, but you're nowhere near publishing this thing. It's an ongoing project.
This is a quite nice position to be in for some reasons. You can call yourself a writer kind of. You can think of yourself as a writer, because you're doing this. You can dream big. You can think about how great this will be once it's finished. You can imagine how you publish your book at some point, and it will take the world by storm. It will be a massive bestseller, and you'll get all this adoration from fans. You'll get money, and you'll be invited to give speeches and interviews, and things like that. It'll be fantastic. This feels good. Like we discussed in the last episode, this kind of dreaming is really nice to do because it feels good, but it actually keeps us from getting things done and finishing things.
Then there's the fear factor. As long as you're still working on it, as long as it's still a work in progress, you can do this dreaming, but this will be confronted. These dreams will be confronted with reality as soon as you actually finish this thing. What if none of those things you dreamed about come true? What if no one buys your book? What if it gets bad reviews? What if you get no adoration and also no money? Then, perhaps worst of all, if that happens, can you really call yourself a writer? Then you've definitely failed. That is something we're afraid of.
It reminds me a bit of the quote by Abraham Lincoln, which says, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt." I think this is kind of a similar situation. It's better to not publish your book and think, "I know maybe some people think, 'Ah, this guy's never going to make it.'" Still, you can think of yourself as, "Maybe. Maybe I'll make it." It's better to be in that position than to actually finish something, and prove to the world that you're not a writer and that you aren't a success. This is this fear of failure.
Hanne Vervaeck: I actually noticed this with a friend of mine who said that he wanted to travel the world. He was always talking about this and always being in this planning mode about traveling the world. Not even really planning, like the dreaming mode. Like exactly what we told last episode that was so bad for actually getting something done. The main reason for this was that he wasn't very happy with his life at that point. The idea of traveling was so attractive basically, that he didn't want to take action on that because he might just find out that traveling wasn't all that attractive, and that maybe his life at the moment wasn't all that bad. I think that this is something that can really happen exactly like you described with a book, with an e-course, with any entrepreneurial project, with an event, with anything where you put yourself out there and you might get the result that it's not as good, and that it's not as fun, and that it's not as perfect as you hoped it would be.
Shane Melaugh: This is a very justified fear because real life tends to be messy and it tends to be difficult. Even though we read a lot about, and the kind of media coverage and so on is, of course, always on spectacular success stories. Someone creates this little product and they just make all this money. It becomes like an overnight success. This is the story that we hear over and over again. In reality, this happens to almost no one. In reality, the way businesses are built, it's like a slow grind. It's a well-founded fear. If you're dreaming about how great it will be to be successful, but then you're afraid that maybe it's not going to be like that. Maybe it's going to be much slower, or much messier, or, "My first product is going to be kind of rubbish." Well, that's a well-founded fear. You're probably right. It takes much more time, and it is just messier in real life than in our fantasies.
Hanne Vervaeck: Then, if this is so attractive, what can we do to avoid it?
Shane Melaugh: Right. Let's get into our interventions, interaction steps, of what you can do. The first one is to change what you measure. I call this your personal KPI. A KPI, in case you're not familiar, a KPI is a key performance indicator. It's used in many contexts in business. It's basically a question of what do you measure. What is, an indicator of the performance you're trying to improve. Of course, what you measure makes a big difference to your results. In general, we pay attention to what we measure and we work on improving what we measure. Measuring stuff makes things visible, brings them to the forefront, and makes it easier to change them. In fact, not measuring things, makes it almost impossible to change them. You can have aspirations about, "I wish this would be better or that would be different." If you don't have something to measure it by, how is it ever going to happen?
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah. I always like to say, especially in marketing, "If you don't measure it, you can't improve it." The same is true here. The same is true in your life, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. This is part of what we talked about in the last episode. The M part of the SMART goals, is measurable. We've already covered this. Today, we're looking more at, what do you measure? What do you put your focus on? The stuff that we tend to measure, as online entrepreneurs, is usually exactly wrong. We tend to look at things like, "How much money is my business making? How much traffic am I getting? How many customers do I have? How many social media followers do I have?" Things like that. Especially these vanity metrics of social media followers, traffic, and things like that, are the most immediately available numbers that we have.
Even without setting anything up, without any kind of technical knowledge, these are the numbers that are shown to you. You upload a video to YouTube, and it shows you how many people watched the video. You create a Twitter account, it shows you how many followers you have. These numbers are the most immediately and most easily accessible numbers, but they're also the wrong numbers to focus on. What all of these numbers have in common, that I just mentioned, is that they're all outside of your own control. The amount of traffic you get to your site is outside of your control, it's outside of your direct control. You can't force people to come to your website. You can only do things that will increase your chances of getting more visitors, but you can't directly force people to come to your website.
The same is with, I'm not saying it's wrong to measure how much revenue your business is generating, of course you need to know how much revenue your business is generating. You also have to be aware that this is a number that is outside of your own control, because you can't force people to give you money. It's very important that you measure and pay attention to things that are under your direct control.
Hanne Vervaeck: The one with the revenue is, I think, the most controversial one, because it's pretty easy to understand that, "Okay, followers, and it doesn't have a direct impact on our business already." I think the point you're making with the revenue not being immediately in your control is a bit counterintuitive. If revenue is out of your control, then what exactly is in your control?
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. I have to deconstruct that. I have to think about what causes revenue? Let's say it's people buying my product. I'm selling a product on my website. It's people buying my product. Where do these people come from? That's where analytics can be useful. Maybe I can see, "Okay, a certain marketing channel is working really well for me." Maybe it's content marketing. I'm creating content. This content is attracting organic traffic from social and search. Some of those visitors are converting into buyers, and that's where my revenue is coming from. Now still, this is still stuff that I don't have direct control over. I have to deconstruct it a step further and say, what I can do, the thing I can directly do, is I can do the content marketing stuff. I can create and publish new blog posts. I can do keyword research and figure out what to write about. I can do all these kinds of things, to do more of the stuff that kind of starts off this chain of events. It starts off with content, which attracts traffic, which leads to sales, which generates revenue. I have to actually unravel this several steps back, to figure out where's the thing that I could actually do?
Of course, this is just one example. It might be totally different. This is why it's so important. I just gave an example of content marketing, but you might follow those steps back and you might notice that, no, it's something totally different, that is the main source of revenue. It might be paid advertising. It might be paid advertising on Facebook, or it might be Google Ad Words, or it might be display ads, or it might be again, something totally different. Unless you follow that chain of events back to the thing that you can actually do, then you can't actually change that number that you care about, the revenue number, in any significant way. All you can do, is you can look at the number and if it goes up, it could feel good, and if it goes down, you can feel bad, which is what most of us do with vanity metrics. We simply look at them and we hope that the number goes up because that makes us feel good, and that's the end of the story, but that's not useful.
Hanne Vervaeck: It's actually one of those things that I kind of hate, when I see the revenue goes up, which sounds stupid, I know. When I see revenue going up, and I have no clue why, because I didn't do anything specific, then I don't really like that. At that point, it's like, "Okay, let's go on this goose hunt to try to find out if maybe an affiliate did a promotion for us. If maybe we got a link on a new blog." If it's just random and you look at the numbers and you're like, "Woohoo. More revenue," but you have no clue why, then you can't recreate that and you can't reproduce it. It's not very valuable at that point.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly. You might just, you're just kind of a victim of it then. If revenue goes up and you don't know why, then revenue can go down and you'll also not know why.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yup. You just cross your fingers and hope that it will happen again maybe.
Shane Melaugh: Exactly, which isn't a great marketing strategy. It's much better to really know, "This is what we did. This was the result," so we can do more of what works, less of what doesn't work. This is the first idea of looking at the thing that matters and following that chain of events back to something you can do yourself. Like I said, an example of that would be, "We're going to create more of this kind of content, because this kind of content leads to this kind of traffic, leads to these sales," or, "We're going to invest more in this advertising channel, because that's where our sales are coming from," and so on.
An example of something that's under control is basically anything you can create yourself. It is, for example, better to focus on doing the work and saying, "I need to launch my product. I need to finish my book. I need to finish my online course," or whatever it is. There's also a problem with kind of using that as your KPI, as your personal KPI, because it's like a single, distant goal. Finishing my online course and launching it, is like this single point, and it's a yes/no state. I've either done it or I haven't done it yet. It doesn't give me any kind of ongoing information about how I'm doing. Maybe I'm working away, I'm slaving away at my course every day. I'm doing the typical perfectionism thing. I'm going, "I have to change this. I have to add some more lessons here. I have to restructure this." I'm working on it every day, but I'm just asking myself, my goal is always just like, "I want to finish and release this," and every day, if you think of it as a graph, there's only two points on the graph, every day is just, "No, no, no, no. I haven't released it yet."
Hanne Vervaeck: That's not very motivating.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, it's not very motivating and it doesn't give me any indication of how I'm progressing towards this goal. That's another problem we need to avoid. I need to be able to see every day, "Did I actually move towards my goal in a significant way or not?"
Hanne Vervaeck: Then, would it be better to put a goal of writing a chapter every day?
Shane Melaugh: That would be an example. There again, we want to have, this goes into the SMART goal thing again, we want to have a clearly defined end result. Instead of just saying, "At some point, in the distant future, my online course is going to be perfect, and then I'm going to release it," is that you have a very clearly defined outline, where it's like, "These are the different things I need to cover. These are the lessons that are going to be in there. I have this finite goal. I know the total thing is going to be 23 lessons. I'm going to create one lesson every day," or like you said, "Write one chapter every day," something like that. Then, I can track this progress and go, "Today I didn't manage to do a chapter, but the day before I managed to do two. Day before that I did one," and so on, "I can see myself progressing towards this end goal of having all 23 chapters or all 23 lessons done."
Let's do a couple more examples, just to give you more practical examples of what this measuring the right thing could look like. Another example would be, let's say my job is to, or one of the things I need to do is improve conversions on my website. Here again, I can't force people to buy more. I can't directly influence conversion rates on my site. What I can do, is I can have a system, I can establish a system that I can follow on a regular basis. A system might be something like, "I watch visitor recordings, interacting with my website, and I analyze heat maps. Based on those, I come up with a hypothesis. I'm going to have a hypothesis of, 'I believe if we change this, it will increase our conversions.' I start an AB test based on that hypothesis." This is something I can do on a regular basis. I can basically track how many AB tests did I launch this month? I can track am I doing this work? It's like, "This is part of my daily work. Do this analysis. Watch these recordings. Check out these heat maps, or maybe start a bunch of new recordings," and so on, to come up with the hypothesis. I can track my progress in stuff I can control, which is, "This month I started four AB tests, and that's good. Last month, I only did two. That was less progress."
Hanne Vervaeck: On the AB testing, you would say, "I have to launch at least this amount of AB tests during a month," or you could say, "Every time, I need at least to have an AB test running on my sales page," so that you actually get into this habit of improving it all the time. I think what's important here, is that you didn't hear us talking about, "You have to get a positive result with those AB tests." That's something that's completely out of your control. You can do the exercise, you can try to imagine what would work better, but in the end, you don't have a crystal ball. You really can't decide whether you're going to improve that conversion rate on your sales page. If your KPI, if what you're measuring would be, "I need to improve my sales page by 1% this month," that's something that's not in your control, whereas if you say, "I need to launch at least two AB tests on my sales page this month," then that is something that you can do. The probability of then improving your conversion rate, goes up significantly of course.
Shane Melaugh: As a final example, I want to revisit our customer first strategy from our first series. There it's the same kind of thing. We presented this strategy, and it is a great way to get customers. It's a great way to start getting paid. Of course, it's still a numbers game. You will reach out to some people and not all of them will get on a coaching call with you. You will pitch your service to people, and not all of them will become paying customers. Again, you don't want to be focusing too much on, "How many paying customers do I have? How much revenue is this generating?" What you want to focus on and what you want to measure day by day, is reaching out to a certain number of people every day and starting the coaching sessions with them, and always making your pitch for the paid upgrade in the second coaching session. You can measure, "How am I following this system? How many people did I reach out to this week? To how many people did I make the pitch?"
This is, the work that you should ... First of all, you should check this off on a checklist or in your calendar or something, and you should, this is like the small success. You should feel good about having done this. Whether or not you've closed a sale, you should feel good about having done the work of reaching out to people, giving them the coaching session, and then pitching your offer.
Hanne Vervaeck: At one point, I was actually doing this actively, and my system was I had to contact at least five people on LinkedIn and five people on Facebook. Simply, I had this introduction text about my website, about what I was doing, and asking people what they were doing, to see, of course the goal was to get them to sign up, but that was not what I was measuring. The one thing that I had to do every morning the moment that I opened my computer, was simply copy/pasting that text, and sending it to five people on LinkedIn and five people on Facebook. That made it, like you said, that gave that small little win, where you start your day and you actually already did something that you know is building up to this bigger goal. It actually, it feels really good to this kind of small things. If you know that you are doing the right small things and that you are measuring the right small things to get to that bigger goal, it's very gratifying to do that.
Shane Melaugh: I also want to add to that. While there are no guarantees, and starting your own business and getting paid for stuff you do yourself is generally difficult, I also have to say that if you do this kind of relentless work, you relentlessly keep at it, you're always willing to do the work, to do this in small steps, to measure your progress, and to look at the data that you're basically gathering like this, and willing to make improvements, this is the most guaranteed way to success that I know. It's not quick and it's not easy. It's not going to happen from one moment to the next, but if you're relentless like this and you keep, you stay disciplined about deconstructing things to that point of where you have control and you just relentlessly pursue that, you're always open to looking at the data and making improvements, this is the path to success that I know that's ... For me, this is low risk. I'm very risk averse. I don't like doing risky things. This is a low risk approach to me, because if you just keep doing that, you just keep doing that, something will come of it. You will eventually make this work.
Hanne Vervaeck: The whole risk averse could be a completely different podcast. Many people think that entrepreneurs actually like risk, while studies have shown that most entrepreneurs are very risk averse. It's something very interesting about having some task that you can do and just do it over, and over, and over, and over again, and knowing that each time that you do that task, it's going towards that bigger goal. It's not just you, Shane saying this, or me saying that this worked for me, it's actually something that has been studied.
This example comes from the art and fear book, and there are other sources that are actually confirming this. It's about a pottery class. This teacher announced at the beginning of the class, that she would separate the class in two groups and one group had to make as many pots as possible. The second group had the same amount of time, I don't know anymore, if it was like a week or something or one day, they had the same amount of time, but they had to make the best pot possible. One group was on quantity and the other group was on quality. By the end of the day, they actually looked at the results that the groups were getting, and objectively they looked at which group got the best results. What might be curious about this, is that actually the group that was focused on quantity, so doing one pot, starting over again, doing a second one, starting over again, doing a third one, starting over again, at the end came up with a better end result than the group that was just trying to perfect this one thing again, and again, and again, and a little bit more, and staying with only one result.
Shane Melaugh: To clarify this actually, this is a study. The one group, the quantity group, they were literally graded using a scale. It was basically just, "All the pots you made, I'm going to put them on a scale. If you reach a certain weight, you get an A." That's how they were graded. Literally, they were basically told, "Yeah, sure, you have to make pots. This is a pottery class. You're making pots. It literally doesn't matter at all. Nobody's going to look at, 'Is this a nice pot? Does it even look like a pot?" It's like how much clay did you use? That's how you get graded." The quality group, much more obviously, is like, "We'll make a nice pot. We'll have people judge the quality and niceness of this pot." To me, that blows my mind. When I read this, it blows my mind, because literally you're telling people, "Just make a pile of clay," essentially. It's in a pottery context, and because it's like you have nothing better to do, you might as well make pots. Just by doing it over and over again, just by creating this volume, they end up making objectively nicer, higher quality, more quote/unquote perfect pots. That's pretty crazy, no?
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, that is.
Shane Melaugh: I have made a series of videos on this topic, because I very strongly believe that this is a fix that many entrepreneurs have to apply to their lives and their work. You have to focus on quantity, on the volume of stuff you put out, because that's how you get better. We'll link to those videos from the show notes. We'll also dive into this here a bit. What you need to do to put this into practice, is you need to ask yourself, "What do you need to be good at to reach your goal? What are the skills you need to reach your goal?"
First of all, this gives you this frame as well, of, "What can I do? How can I improve myself? That's something that I can control, and not what needs to happen externally, what needs to happen in the world around me, for me to have a successful business?" It's the question of, "What do I need to get good at to make this business work?" Then you want to decide how you're going to get good at this. Remind yourself of this, you can use the daily reminder technique. Use the daily reminder technique to kind of remind yourself, "This is what I've decided to get good at. This will make me more successful the better I get at it." Then you start producing volume. You can use 30 day challenges, another tool that we've talked about, or you can say, my example again, was make a video every day for 30 days to get better at making videos. You can apply this to a lot of stuff. You want to start building that skill by just outputting a lot of stuff.
We've been talking about creating your own product and that's what we advocate, create your own digital products. For me, this was information products at one point. My personal example of how I applied what we just talked about, how I applied the quantity over quality approach is this. At one point, I decided that I wanted to sell information productions, so I had to get good at creating excellent products. For me, that was very clear. I wasn't going to do trashy, second rate information products and just be really good at selling them.
Hanne Vervaeck: No? I thought that was a perfect goal in life, to sell trashy product.
Shane Melaugh: That seems to be the attitude of some online marketers for sure. They make rubbish products ...
Hanne Vervaeck: You can say scammers, it's okay.
Shane Melaugh: Yes. They make rubbish products and they just make very hypey sales pages for them, and people buy them anyway. Obviously, that's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to, the basis for my information product business was going to be that I make really, really good products. How do I do that? I create and release a product. I get feedback on it, and then I create and release another product. I get feedback on that, and I create and release another product, and so on. I did this as quickly as I could.
I've talked about this before, but I started with a free ebook. That was my first product. I was like, "Okay, I'm going to put together this free ebook, give it away for free, ask people to leave comments, or reply to email or whatever, to tell me what they think, what I could improve and so on." Then I made another ebook. Then I made like an online course with video and downloadable PDFs, and it was pretty rubbish. Then I rebuilt that online course. I rebuilt that online course, made a new version of it, made it nicer. Then I made my first version of my first paid product. I got feedback on that. Then I updated it. Got feedback on that. I made another paid product, another free one. Then I created a new membership thing, and I rebuilt all of my free stuff and put it in there. Then I made another paid product. Then I completely rebuilt my bestselling premium product and relaunched it again.
In the course of just a couple of years, maybe two, two and a half years, I was churning out products. Rebuilding a product and rereleasing it, is another example, it's like you make a pot, you throw it away, you make another pot. I was doing this, this is how I applied volume. This is how I applied quantity. I was churning out product, after product, after product. I think this is what a lot of people don't realize, because so many of us will have the goal of creating one product, "I'm going to create this one course," and just agonize over it and spend ages on it. Whereas, all the while, while you're sitting there going, "Oh my God. This isn't good enough yet," and just keeping working on this pot, I'm churning, churning, churning, churning. In the time it takes you to make that one thing, I've released like four things and rereleased one of them. This is how I got good at it. This is the reason I can now competently create an information product.
Hanne Vervaeck: From a business side of view, it also makes sense. Think about it, if Shane, you created that product, you sold it, you got money for it already, you got feedback, you rereleased it, you got money for it again. Whereas, if you would have kept it to yourself, first of all, you would never have had that feedback. Probably, even the finished, polished, however you want to call it version, would not be as good as a rerelease of the product. Second of all, you would not have had those first customers.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, exactly. I don't see how any of this could have happened with a different approach. I would have run out of money at some point. I wouldn't have ever gotten this vital feedback that helps me make better stuff. It's out of that feedback that I figure out what other products I need to make, or how I need to improve my product and so on. I don't see how I could have made this work any other way, than through volume.
Here's another thing to keep in mind. Like I said, my first ebook wasn't great. The first time I tried to put together like an online course kind of thing with video and stuff, that was pretty messy. I didn't do that well. It doesn't matter. Nobody ever told me, "Your online course, the design of your membership site is a bit crap. The videos take a bit long to load. Whatever, the layout is a bit, whatever." Basically, in general, people got value out of what I was creating, even if the presentation wasn't super polished. Even if there was still gaps in what I was teaching. They got value out of it. They told me about what they liked and what they were still confused about, what questions they had, and that allowed me to make better stuff. It wasn't ever a problem, nobody ever pointed the finger and laughed because I wasn't very good at this yet.
Hanne Vervaeck: Do you remember how much you sold that for?
Shane Melaugh: My very first product, like the first version of my first product, I did like a pre-launch thing, I sold it for $9.00.
Hanne Vervaeck: I think it's also one of those traps, where the moment, I think we'll probably go deeper into this in a later stage, but where if you're imagining that you have to create a $2,000 course, people will have expectations for that. Whereas, if you're like, "Small course, put it out. Small course again, put it out again. Ask a little more each time," because you're getting better at it each time. It's also a whole different feeling than having this huge monster thing that you need to create this flagship product, $2,000 type of product.
Shane Melaugh: Absolutely. That's exactly how it went. I first sold it for $9.00. I then updated and upgraded it, and started selling it for I think around $50.00. Then later, I upgraded it again, added more stuff again, and at one point it was selling for like $80.00 or $90.00. It was always in line, I mean I always felt slightly uncomfortable, that's also normal, it's normal to feel uncomfortable asking for money, but it was always in line with my ability and in line with what I was delivering. I agree, if I had tried to make a $2,000 product as my first thing, I would have definitely crumbled under the pressure of trying to make that happen.
Hanne Vervaeck: Now my personal example about this, doing it over, and over, and over again and measuring what is in your control, is for public speaking. This year, I decided that public speaking was one of the skills that I wanted to develop for my career, for whatever, for what I want to do in my life and in business. I cannot control how many people will actually come to my speeches, like not really. I mean I can invite some people or whatever. What I can control, is the number of invites or the number of emails that I'm sending out, to offer to speak somewhere. My KPI for this public speaking skill building, is that I measure how many times I'm applying for speaking gigs. That is something that I can measure. I can tell myself that I need to apply for at least whatever, four speaking gigs in a month, and that I have to try to book, or that I have to try to book one speaking gig. At that point, maybe I will have to send out 100 emails in order to book one speaking gig. That's in my control. Then how many people actually come to the speech or come listen to me, that's mostly in control of the person who's organizing the event. I can't really control that. I think it's one of those empowering things, when you actually understand that you can start measuring what's in your own control.
Shane Melaugh: That's the point about focusing on quantity over quality. One last point I want to make about this, is that it is also a question of mindset. You have to start focusing on and getting attached to the longer term outcome. Instead of sitting there going, "Oh my God. This one pot I'm working on right now has to be perfect. I will be judged by how good this pot is. It's unacceptable to make this pot anything other than perfect." You're sitting there sweating, feeling under pressure, feeling stressed, and so on. You're so attached to the immediate short term outcome of this one pot you're working on, and it's simply the wrong approach. What you need to get attached to is the longer term goal of, "I will get good at making pots. The way I get good at making pots is by making lots of them."
We know this, I think we know this from art. All kids draw. All kids draw and they basically make a mess on a piece of paper with a bunch of colored crayons. Slowly, over time, they get slightly better at drawing. They can draw little characters and things. We know that anyone who's a great artist, who can make a fantastically beautiful or lifelike drawing, we know that, that's a progression, a very slow progression that starts with this really simplistic, childish drawing, and slowly, over time, one drawing after another, it gets slightly better each time, until you finally have this masterpiece.
Hanne Vervaeck: That's why I'm still drawing stick figures.
Shane Melaugh: Yes. That's why most of us are still drawing stick figures that are barely identifiable, because we stopped at that point. We stopped drawing regularly. There is absolutely no way you're going to sit down and draw a masterpiece right now by trying hard. There is no way. The only way you get better at things is through quantity, through volume. You need to get attached to this idea, "I want to be good at this in the future. The way I get good at this in the future, is by shipping a lot of stuff now."
We mentioned earlier that this procrastination by perfectionism is common among entrepreneurs. We also talked to an expert, who gave us some more insights about this.
Graham Jones: This is fairly typical in those kind of people who are rather perfectionist in their attitude to life. They feel that they can't possibly launch their product or their service, until it's perfect. Of course, it's never going to be perfect.
Shane Melaugh: That was Graham Jones. He is a psychologist, who specializes in human behavior as it relates to the internet. He's working with many entrepreneurs on the human side of building and running online businesses.
Graham Jones: Those people are so sure that the world is not ready for something unless it's perfect, that they will always put it off. Entrepreneurs, as a bunch of people, largely do want things to be perfect, because they are launching something onto the world that's theirs. They don't want any people saying, "This isn't ready for launch. This is bad. It's not good," and so on. Actually, people don't say those things, so it's a perceived fear that's an unreal fear, and therefore the put things off, because they don't think that what they've got is perfect enough for people to accept. What we do know, when you look at things that have been launched that are highly successful, what I tend to find, speaking to entrepreneurs myself, who do launch things, what they consider to be early, anything that's kind of 50% ready is usually okay by the audience. Even if you've only put half the features you're currently planning in, actually the outside world thinks that's pretty good.
Shane Melaugh: This is an important idea. I want to take this idea a bit further. It's not only that the thing that you think isn't good enough yet is probably pretty good by your audience's standards already, but think about this. By not publishing this, you're depriving your audience of this thing that is pretty good and pretty useful for them. Start thinking about that. Whom are you hurting by not publishing? Whom are you hurting by endlessly putting this off and endlessly working on small details and not shipping? If you believe in what you're doing, if you're building something that's valuable, that means that as long as you're keeping it for yourself, and as long as you're putting this off, you are depriving people to have access to this resource, and to have access to a solution that they might sorely need.
Hanne Vervaeck: I think this is such an important point, because it can really help you make that switch about getting of your head and actually thinking about other people, and thinking about how much you are hurting them by staying in this perfectionism mode and not launching your thing. The way I like to think about this, is what if you had the cure to cancer? Would you really hold back because you're not having the perfect logo, or because maybe the lighting on your video isn't perfect? Probably your e-course, your ebook is not going to cure cancer, but still, you believe in it. You believe enough in your product, you believe in the message that you want to get out into the world, that you must be hurting somebody by not getting it out. Maybe your solution will help time, help save time, will help save money, will help them make a better business, will help them have better relationships, whatever. If you are a health coach, for example, and your program can help just one person to change their habits and not to get diabetes, isn't that worth much more than you being perfect on camera, or you having the perfect layout in your membership site? For me, the first time that I heard this about who are you actually depriving by not getting out the content, it really made it click. It really helped me see things from a different perspective.
Shane Melaugh: Yes. For me, this was also something that made a difference and made me snap out of this perfectionism mode. I think this is also a really important ... A core thing that we do and we talk about at Active Growth, is that you create a value based business, which means you create something that has real value. You provide some kind of a solution, you provide something that people need, it's something that helps people. This is one of the great advantages, is that this thinking applies to good products. Again, if you're just kind of trying to build some kind of a passive income, "I'm going to exploit some loophole that makes some money. I'm going to scam people and sell some crap and just get their money," then it's much harder to motivate yourself to do something like that, because your business is actually not adding any value to the world. The world is just as fine or perhaps even better off if you don't do it.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly. You're never going to be able to apply this mindset because it simply doesn't apply. If you believe in your project, it doesn't have to be extremely world changing. I mean, if you teach people how to make better images for their website, it's not something that will save world hunger or whatever, but it is something that will help business owners to have a better image online and maybe to have a better business because of that. It will make their website more trustworthy, and maybe they will sell more because of you helping them create those images. That's worth putting out in this world.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. You can think of it on a really small scale. You're not going to start by changing everything in the world, but you can start by helping a few people achieve something or solve a small problem or something like that. As long as you're doing this procrastination by perfectionism, you are depriving those people from having that. Look, I have to confess, I have this too. I have this procrastination by perfectionism very strongly. I have this impulse inside me. I have to remind myself of this all the time. I have to always get myself to focus on publishing anyway. All this stuff I talk about here and the whole concept of rapid implementation and shipping fast, is really a self-administered solution. This is a solution I need, and I apply these solutions that we talk about here to myself.
A recent example of this is, on the blog there's a video, which is a very simple video of me talking to the camera, which is about should you publish or even sell something if you feel like it's not ready yet? This was a video that I made after recording a video for Thrive Themes. I had like a studio set up and a green screen and stuff, and made one of our, let's say fancier videos there. I had this idea in my head and I just kind of, before turning off the lights I turned on the camera again and I talked to the camera a bit. I was hesitant about publishing that because it's a bit rambly. It takes me several minutes to get to the point. Also, the lighting in the video is really bad, and I look a bit exhausted, and there's some noise outside. There's a lot of small things wrong with that video. It's definitely not my best, or most polished video. I was hesitant, I had this feeling where it's like, "Is this good enough? Should I publish this? Is this going to waste people's time?"
Go and look, and we'll link to that. Go and look at the comments on that video. There's several people, there's several people have come in and said, "Oh my God. This is what I needed to hear. This made a difference for me." That is worth doing. If I had listened to this voice of perfectionism, gone, "The lighting isn't so good. I'm not going to publish this," I would have deprived all of those people of something they needed to hear. I would have deprived all of those people of a positive difference that this piece of content made in their lives.
Hanne Vervaeck: Your inner voice is very whiny.
Shane Melaugh: I mean, I think so, yeah. The inner perfectionist voice is a bit whiny, it's a bit of a prick. How do you put this into practice? For me, the best way to put this into practice is to just do it as a writing exercise. You take a piece of paper, you write down, "Who am I depriving by not publishing my solution or my product," or whatever it is, and you just write. You write what comes to mind. I kind of said, for her it was, it's kind of a one time thing that switches your perspective. For me, it's the same thing. I spent some time thinking and writing about this, and it switched my perspective. Then, you can just remind yourself of this, whenever you hear that whiny, perfectionist voice in your head again.
Now, we've got another solution for you that you can put in place and that you should think about. For this, we're going to go back to Graham Jones. We asked him about this question. We asked him, "What's the cure for this problem? What's the cure for procrastination by perfectionism?" He gave us an answer that's surprisingly simply, but also incredibly useful.
Graham Jones: The cure is to get someone else to do the launch. Whilst that might involve a cost or it might involve some kind of swapping of services between different people, in other words get somebody else to be responsible for the launch. You take it to where, with your plans and your roadmap for your development, and you take it to a particular point. You, as the entrepreneur, carry on with the creative stuff, the stuff that really makes entrepreneurs tick, and somebody else launches it. Those people, who you might psychologically call complete or finishers, these are people who finish things off and get things done, those kind of people will go, "That's good enough. We'll just get it out there," and then you carry on changing it and adapting it. What happens is, you see that through experience, that actually it wasn't, from your perspective as an entrepreneur, ready for the world, but actually the world loved it and so you learn from that experience for the next product or service that you develop.
Shane Melaugh: I can confirm that this works, from my own experience. I've been this guy. I've been the, "Yeah, it's fine. No, it's fine. We're launching it now." I've been that person for two other entrepreneurs in the past. I've basically stepped in with two other entrepreneurs who were doing the creative work and going, "No, no. It's not ready yet," and basically just went, started a partnership with them and was just like, "Yeah, whatever. I don't care. I'm not listening to your complaints. We're just launching this now." It is important. In fact, in many ways, I've found myself in the role of like dragging stuff across the finish line, like dragging the creative kicking and screaming across the finish line and getting them to launch. This is definitely something that works.
While Graham Jones talks about certain types of people are maybe more prone to creative work and perfectionism, and other types of people, who are more complete or finishers, if you can find someone like that, that's great, but it can be a lot simpler than that. If you simply define your roles, you don't have to find the perfect match for this, if you simply define your roles and say, "You're the person who's in charge of building this product and making it good. I am the person in charge of doing the marketing. I'm going to launch it. I'm going to do the sales material. I'm going to do the selling." That is enough, because when I'm working on my own stuff, I'm the perfectionist as well, but when I'm in the role of being the launcher for someone else, then it works. My perfectionism does not apply to other people's work, so that's fine. If you just have a partner with clearly defined roles, "You're the creator. I'm the launcher," that can be extremely effective.
Hanne Vervaeck: I'm actually part of this Mastermind group. These are people that, of course, I trust and I think they have a certain level of quality and a certain level of expertise in their work. When they tell me that what I'm doing is good enough for launch, I listen to them. It's not just random friends. It's not my mom telling me that now my book is ready or whatever. It's people who actually have quality standards that I admire and that I think are at a level where I also want to launch stuff at that level. Having that group of people, even if they are not actually the one who will launch the stuff, they will be the ones saying, "Hey, next time that we call each other you better have launched, because it's ready." I think that's also very valuable. If you have people that you can trust and that you think have the best, not just for you, it's not, they are not patting you on the back, it's they have the best interest in your business, then you can listen and you can get over yourself and you can actually go into launch mode.
Shane Melaugh: In short, you can get other people to help you with this problem. You don't have to struggle with this problem on your own. You can get other people to help you in various ways, and with what you just said Hanne, you can also be that person in other people's lives. You can, in your Mastermind group, on the one hand, you can get this feedback and you can trust other people to say, "Yes, this is ready," and at the same time, because like I said before, your perfectionism generally only applies to yourself, so you can look at their stuff and you can be that person in their life who says, "No, this is ready and you should launch." It can just be really, really helpful to not be alone in this.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, definitely.
Shane Melaugh: Those are our action steps for today's episode. I'll give you a summary of those in just a minute, but first I want to bring back Piers Steel from the last episode, because he has a message that I think is really important.
Pierce Steele: If I was the Pope of procrastination, I would forgive you all.
Shane Melaugh: That's just nice. I wanted to play that, just because it's such a nice message. Consider yourself forgiven. What exactly does Dr. Steel mean when he says this?
Pierce Steele: People look at it as a human failing, when it's really close so much just to being human, that we all have this natural tendency to procrastinate. It's built into us. We can see it in the way our brains are created, the way they evolved. The fact that we have a limbic and prefrontal system, it's inevitable. We're not designed to have the patience to pursue projects that require us to wait years for their outcome. What we're doing is actually something kind of unnatural. We're acting not as nature intended. Of course, we're going to have these particular types of problems, and when we have them, don't add fuel to the fire by feeling guilt about them.
Guilt makes you then not want to deal with themselves, because when you think about your procrastination it's an awful feeling, because now you think it reflects your self-worth. If you can forgive yourself about it and just say, "Wow, this is not good," it's kind of like if you came home and somebody ransacked your house, you wouldn't feel guilty. You wouldn't certainly wait for the burglar to come back to clean it up because that was his or her fault. You'd start cleaning it up yourself. The same type of thing about procrastination, is that yes, don't feel guilty about it, but do something about it. If people can get that mindset, they'd be much more productive.
Shane Melaugh: If you need to use any or all of these systems and tools that we're giving you in this podcast, that's not a bad sign. That doesn't mean that you're not a real entrepreneur and you need all this help to make it work. You can't just get on with it. You can't just be like, "I'm just going to do it." That would be like some kind of a superpower. The truth is, these are problems that we have to deal with. These are tools we have to use if we want to become effective entrepreneurs. Like I said before, I use these tools myself. I use these writing exercises, these daily reminders, 30 day challenges, all of this stuff that we talked about, I use as well, because otherwise, I couldn't ever get anything done.
Hanne Vervaeck: It's not something that is just one time. I think that's also very interesting, because Shane, you've been launching products and doing all this online stuff, and the video you're talking about, that you was hesitant about publishing is like two weeks ago. It's not something that at one point you're just okay with it and you get over with it. It's something that you will have to fight over, and over, and over again. Just having these systems in place and following what we laid out in this podcast, it's what works for us. It's what we found with specialists, that they are telling you that works. You can apply this over, and over, and over again, each time that you feel that you're getting into this trap of perfectionism and that you are noticing that you're not shipping.
Shane Melaugh: Thank you for listening in. I'm back very briefly with some footnotes. All of the resources we mentioned and all of the show notes, you can find at activegrowth.com/9. That is activegrowth, one word, .com/9, either the number 9 or type out nine, either way you will end up on the resources page for this episode. We link to the book, Procrastination Equation, by Piers Steel, who was featured here. We will also link to Graham Jones' website if you want to hear and learn more from him. We also link to The Art of Fear book that was mentioned, that was where the pottery class example came from, and we link to the video I mentioned, which was basically a perfect example of something that I almost didn't ship because of perfectionism. If you go and look at the comments there, you can, I mean it's just really a perfect point for what we were talking about here.
Also, we have added another lesson to our course that goes along with this podcast series. All of the action steps, we've put in a course that you can access on our site, and you can also get it through activegrowth.com/9. The reason we did this is because while podcasts are a great way to learn and discover new things, I think they're not a great reference point or they're not great reference material. It's not very efficient to try and go back through podcast episodes and try to find, "What was that exact strategy? What was that exact technique? What was that thing they mentioned?" Because of that, we're actually taking all the action steps from these podcast episodes, and putting them in the form of an online course. It will make it much easier for you to come back to specific techniques, and basically we made little checklists where you can go, "Here's how I apply this strategy," you follow the checklists. Together with what you learned by listening to the podcast, I think this will make this even more actionable.
Now, as you probably noticed, this is quite unusual. We are basically providing a free course along with a podcast series, instead of what you'd usually be hearing in the middle of the podcast, and at the beginning, and right now, is I'd be doing sales pitches of some kind. I would be, "Sponsored by this and that. Go there to build your website or buy your mattress," or whatever it is. We're not doing any of that. Instead, we're giving you a free course. It's pretty unusual and I'd like to know what you think of this. This is another thing that's really important for the Active Growth podcast, we want to hear from you. You can go to activegrowth.com/9 to leave us a voice message or leave a comment. Let us know what you think. Did you try out the course? Is it useful for you? Are there things we should add? Let us know how to make this as useful as possible for you, because the goal here is we want to help you beat this problem. That is not an easy thing to do. We realize that, which is why we're really going all out on providing you information and resources to beat this entrepreneurial procrastination problem. Let us know how we're doing and what else we can do to help you with this.
Finally, let me read out part of another new iTunes review that has come in. John from the United States writes, "Trustworthy and a different slant." He says, "I first met Shane through his Thrive Themes, which has outstanding training for WordPress Blog, and their themes and content better. This series on digital marketing lives up to the incredibly valuable content on Thrive Themes. I love his insights and approach, as I believe in relationship selling and heart-centered sales. It is refreshing to find someone who's also more committed to giving value and to offering incredibly products in such a way that they appeal to the right market." This is a wonderful review. Thank you very much John. Of course, if you enjoy this podcast then we'd really appreciate it if you could head over to iTunes and leave us a review.
That is all for today. I really hope to hear from you, whether you have positive things to say, encouraging things to say, or whether there are open questions or you found something confusing, we want to hear from you, so we can make this more useful for you. One last time, activegrowth.com/9. Thank you very much for listening. I'll catch you next time.
We have updated our companian course for this podcast series. You can now found the third lesson that includes all the action steps mentioned in the episode and some more helpful information.
If you have already signed up for the course, you can log in here. If not, take a moment to sign up here (it's free!):
In This Episode, You'll Discover:
- How your perfectionism can stop you from giving value to the world
- Why procrastinating is actually more natural than becoming an entrepreneur
- You're looking at the wrong numbers: what statistics can help you grow your business and what's just vanity metrics
- The pottery class experiment and how to apply it to your life
- What a qualified internet psychologist has to say about perfectionism
- How to overcome your fear of failure
- What the number one thing is that worked both for Hanne and Shane to get over perfectionism
- You can find the pottery class experiment in the book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
- Check out Graham Jones's website for more content on internet psychology
- Read The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel PhD
- Watch the video that Shane almost didn't publish due to his perfectionist inner voice (the related post is here):
What's Stopping You?
Do you ever put a project off because you're worried that the audience won't like the not-so-perfect outcome? Stop beating yourself up, you're completely normal and not alone. Join the conversation in the comments below and share your story with us!
Want to be featured in our future podcast episodes? Leave us a quick voice message about your story and experience with the topic:
See you soon with the next episode!