Where did it start? Why is it so hard for so many entrepreneurs to achieve what they want to achieve? Why is it difficult for many start-up businesses to get off the ground? Every single year, there are tens of thousands of businesses started, and every single year, nearly as many fail. In fact, almost 80% of all small business start-ups fail within the first five years. Why does this happen to so many new businesses?
People usually start out with great ideas and great intentions. Generally speaking, they tend to fall short when it comes to actually getting things done. Now, this does not apply to every single business; however, from what I have seen, this is the single most common factor for the 80% of businesses that fail.
In order to really understand where your obsession with perfection comes from, you must rewind the clock all the way back to infancy. From the very beginning, you are taught right from wrong and good from bad, and you are praised every time you do something better than the last time. Once you reach kindergarten, you begin to receive grades based on how well you perform different tasks. It is in this arena that testing reinforces the idea of perfectionism. As you are awarded grades, based on a standard grade letter scale or on a percentage scale, you become conditioned to push and strive for the A or the 100%. In fact, anything less is generally considered bad or inferior.
Your perfectionism conditioning is then further reinforced when you have to bring your grade reports home to your parents. Many schools require parents to sign these report cards as proof, not only that you showed your parents, but that they gave their final judgment of your school performance. Most children want to please their parents, and some children are given rewards at home for good grades, so their obsession with perfection becomes almost inevitable and unavoidable.
Your level of perfection was based on your report card. Depending on your upbringing and other variable factors, you may have been praised for your effort, but if straight A’s were not listed, you were probably also encouraged to “try harder next time.” You were praised for what the paper said rather than the amount of effort you put forth while achieving those grades. You were held in judgment of your performance comparative to the “perfect” A or 100% standard. You were always in competition with the best and the worst among your peers, ranked by your distance to that coveted spot of perfection.
This ranking system does not work for entrepreneurs. For most employees, the mentality of trying to be perfect still applies because they are trying to succeed within an already defined and established set of parameters. This blog, however, is not for employees looking to be better at their nine-to-fives; this blog is for those who want something more, those who want to create their own businesses, and those who want to enjoy the freedoms that come with achieving entrepreneurial successes. Yet, you have been taught from a very young age that this is not what you want. You have been taught to want perfection even though, in the real world, perfectionism is both largely unattainable and even, as you are now learning, a hindrance to successful entrepreneurial endeavors.
While this is just some food for thought, in my book Get Out Of Your Own Way, I dive deeper into how this mind conditioning is causing your own brain to work against your goal of building a successful business. Pick up your own copy to dive into this in more detail.
In the meantime let me know in the comments below if this resonates with you. How did your family treat your report cards? Were you praised for effort or for the result? I would love to know what your own perceptions of where your need for perfection came from!