As I listened to my gut alongside the military spouse community as the new Founder & CEO of the Paradigm Switch I clearly identified the problem but was still at a loss for the solution. As a result, I looked at our competition.
What were they doing and how were they solving the problem? I found that we were all solving a massive problem with military spouse unemployment- but in so many different ways. I asked myself questions like, “what is working and what is not working?” and “what areas are organizations that are thriving needing help in today?”
I discovered a lot of different ways people were solving the problem, but I also could see a few gaps in service too. There were still areas of the problem that needed fresh solutions but I couldn’t identify what exactly it could look like.
I was mad at myself.
Why was this so hard?
I am supposed to be a businesswoman.
I should have the answers
How will I ever be “successful” and well respected if I can’t solve problems?
Over time, my anger and frustration grew. I became ready to get to work and try some things but I didn’t trust myself. And because I wasn’t mature enough to admit it yet, I didn’t ask for help.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I made when building the first company that lingered with me throughout the entire innovation process.
I thought everything that came out of my mouth needed to be data-driven. Potential donors would ask questions that I couldn’t answer. Our customers (military spouses) were in such dire need of resources at this time, my team and I couldn’t move fast enough to help them all. Everything was moving so fast. I was trying to be the “perfect” leader and avoid all of the mistakes I read about. I wasn’t slowing down enough to listen to myself. I didn’t think my ideas were good enough. I didn’t think I had the gift of creativity.
Well, the truth is, that I tried to be what I thought was creative before, but my ideas got smashed by skeptics and people who were always looking for data. (I now know that some of these people didn’t understand the innovation and creative process either). In these situations, I found myself talking through ideas, problems, and solutions and I would find myself getting excited, but then immediately vomiting “mumbo jumbo” and no one could follow what I was saying.
I was a terrible communicator.
I assumed that everyone I was talking to understood what stage of the creative process we were in.
Combine that with my personal lack of respect for a shitty first draft, I quickly became my own worst enemy. I began to expect perfection from the moment the idea was born. Shortly after, I began to lack the confidence to see my ideas through.
What was the point if it wasn’t perfect and my original thoughts, ideas, and theories didn’t have data to support them? I never stopped to think that my experiences and perspectives were worthy of being heard.
The worst part of all of this is that when I did muster up the courage to share my work, I had worked on it to the point of no return. I had reached a level of unwillingness to remain open to new ideas and change. That rigidity was detrimental to any potential success of the work.
Over time, I allowed my self-worth to become attached to whether or not people “liked my ideas”, which was one big cluster f*ck of a mess. You’ll recall, I have just admitted how unwilling I had become to accept helpful feedback, so you can see the disaster I was headed for.
I was under the impression that if I were to pursue anything that needed to be created from scratch or even improved with new ways, I had to only present the best, and if you criticized my best work, then you were attacking me personally.
If you are anything like me you are probably thinking, “what’s the problem?” Striving for your best is a good thing right?
Yes, but only if you understand the innovation process. Otherwise, you fall into the perfection paralysis trap I had fallen into. As I would begin to create, my fear of sharing what I was working on with anything left me feeling extremely vulnerable.
I thought the feedback process was a direct attack on my ability to be a “successful businesswoman.” I didn’t understand the basic concepts of creativity and innovation, so I began to criticize my own work before anyone else could…
And not in a healthy way either…
The amount of ridiculous pressure I put on myself to perfect the first draft of anything held me back from creating anything at all. My perfectionism had progressed so much that I even started to find myself overwhelmed with basic day-to-day tasks such as email, leading meetings, and making very simple decisions.
Life got complicated. My perfectionism had become an affliction.
I didn’t trust myself and every day that went by, my hole got deeper and deeper. Now by that point, I was terrified to do anything.
I was stuck in perfection paralysis.
Do you ever find yourself stuck in perfection paralysis?
How do you navigate through it?