18 Minutes – Peter Bregman
According to the World Database of Happiness (yes, there is one), Iceland is the happiest place on earth. That’s right, Iceland. Yes, I know it’s cold and dark six months out of the year there. I’m just giving you the data.
The secret to their happiness? Eric Weiner, Author of The Geography of Bliss, traveled to Iceland to find out. After interviewing a number of Icelanders, Weiner discovered that their culture doesn’t stigmatize failure. Icelanders aren’t afraid to fail — or to be imperfect — and so they’re more willing to pursue what they enjoy. That’s one reason Iceland has more artists per capita than any other nation. “There’s no one on the island telling them they’re not good enough, so they just go ahead and sing and paint and write,” Weiner writes.
Which makes them incredibly productive. They don’t just sit around thinking they’d like to do something. They do it. According to the psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, who wrote the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “It is not the skills we actually have that determine how we feel but the ones we think we have.”
So if you think you’re good at something, whether or not you are, you’ll do it. The converse is also true: if you think you aren’t good enough at something, you won’t do it.
A friend of mine, Jeff, has wanted for some time to start a business teaching guitar. But he hasn’t yet. Why? When you sift through his various explanations and excuses it comes down to one simple problem.
He’s a perfectionist.
Which means he’ll never think he’s good enough at guitar to teach it. And he’ll never feel like he knows enough about running a business to start one.
Perfectionists have a hard time starting things and an even harder time finishing them. At the beginning, it’s they who aren’t ready. At the end, it’s their product that’s not. So either they don’t start the screenplay or it sits in their drawer for ten years because they don’t want to show it to anyone.
But the world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards productivity.
And productivity can only be achieved through imperfection. Make a decision. Follow through. Learn from the outcome. Repeat over and over and over again. It’s the scientific method of trial and error. Only by wading through the imperfect can we begin to achieve glimpses of the perfect.
– Peter Bregman (18 minutes).
Still interested? Read this book.