If only is a phrase I’ve used many times in my life and business career.

A few years ago, I launched a new service.

I spent an extensive amount of time developing the service.

I knew from my years of experience that it was a service that many of my clients were looking for.

I took a big leap and started promoting the service to my existing clients and new prospects.

Over three months, I ended up selling the service to several new and existing clients.

During those months, the new income I earned from that work was worth over $20,000.

The service I offered was a high-end consulting service that was very profitable to me.

The service improved my clients’ business profitability.

It was a true win-win solution for both my clients and me.

I met with a peer colleague of mine and was sharing my success story.

I was proud of the work I’d done and excited about the new income stream I had generated.

As soon as I finished sharing my successes, I made the following comment.

If only I had closed more of the proposals I would have made a lot more money.

At the very moment I was celebrating my victory, I was denigrating myself by pointing attention to my failures.

I was giving more weight to the people who didn’t hire me than the people who did hire me.

Why was it so important for me to focus on the people who said not than the people that said yes?

In some strange way, I was saying to myself that my success didn’t matter because I had not been perfect.

What makes me think that perfection is even possible?

As I review my life, the one thing I can say with certainty is that my life has not been perfect.

Perfection is not possible for humanity.

Why then have I held myself up to the impossible standard of perfection?

The great poet Alexander Pope stated, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Nothing I ever do will ever be perfect.

Nothing I ever do will ever be perfect.

Nothing I ever do will ever be perfect.

My constant quest for perfectionism has instilled two unhealthy behaviors of procrastination and self-doubt.


In my habitual pursuit of perfection, I’ve taken longer to complete work than was necessary.

I’ve often heard people state that good enough is good enough.

In my pursuit of perfection, I’ve taken longer to complete work than was required.

There was something about my work that wasn’t perfect, and I continued to tinker with that item longer than was necessary.

The law of diminishing returns states that there is a tipping point where additional work becomes less valuable.

Let’s say I want to build a table.

There are five pieces in a basic table, four legs, and a tabletop.

Once those five pieces combined, one has a table.

Assembling the five pieces accomplishes 80% of the work of building a table.

This is the tipping point for a table.

Additional work beyond assembling the five pieces of the table has less incremental value to the table beyond assembly.

Each hour of additional work on the table does little to improve the utility of the table.

This is the same principle that applies to many aspects of life.

As I’ve learned more about my procrastination, I’ve recognized that procrastination is a symptom of fear.

The fears at the root of my procrastination and perfectionism were the fears of failure and fears of rejection.

I would spend additional time trying to perfect my work so that I could avoid failure and rejection.

I somehow convinced myself that if I made my work perfect, there would be no way my work would fail or be rejected.

I thought to myself, by making it perfect, it can’t fail because it is perfect.

While this misguided logic appears to make sense, it ignores the truth that I tried to ignore.

Nothing I ever do will ever be perfect.

Here’s what I began to learn.

Given my disposition for perfection, I create high standards for myself and my work.

Most of the time, my 60% level of work is significantly better than most people’s 90% level of work.

I’ve had to recognize that, at some point good enough is good enough.

It’s better to have something complete at 70% quality in a given time frame than it is to take twice as long to get it to 85% quality.


With my extreme focus on my shortcomings, I have failed to give myself credit for my good work.

More often than not, I focus on what I did wrong or what I failed to do.

This has further reinforced the practice of finding fault with my imperfection.

When I’ve focused on my imperfection, I begin to start the process of castigating myself for my imperfections.

Nobody in my life has been as mean to me as I have been to myself.

I’ve said the worst things about myself and my abilities.

I’ve hurled insult after insult to the man in the mirror.

I’ve had to battle against words filled with fire and disdain.

The worst part of this situation is that these words were piled upon me by someone that knows me better than anyone else.

I finally realized that the constant barrage of self-loathing had to come to an end.

I’ve decided to give myself grace and allowance for my shortcomings.

I’ve changed the language I’m using now.

I used to say, “I made a mistake.

Now I use the following phrases.

  • I didn’t get the results I desired.
  • Things didn’t go as planned.
  • I’ve learned from this situation.

The idea of perfectionism is unattainable.

To err is human, to forgive myself is divine.

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