When Chloe, my daughter was 5 she took daily swimming lessons over the Easter holidays. Each morning my mum or I took her down to the Dolphin Centre (not as exotic as it sounds!) in town for a half hour lesson. On this particular day it was my turn to take her.
I watched as they practiced doing front crawl and back crawl with one arm tucked around a float and the other doing windmills, their little legs kicking up a storm.
Each time they swam across the instructor told them how good they were and how they just needed to keep their tummy up, or make sure their toes were kicking out of the water. She kept making gradual adjustments.
Then after 20 minutes of this, she took the floats off them and each one of the 6 little swimmers swam across the pool doing front crawl, then back crawl.
Some of them veered off course and ended up half way across the pool (one even vanished under the dividing curtain then reappeared looking confused a couple of seconds later).
Some, like Chloe couldn’t get the hang of breathing to the side, so she just kept sticking her head up like a little goggled turtle and doing great gasps before sticking her face back in the water and swimming on.
Some couldn’t get their legs up to the surface so they took forever to get to the other side.
But all of them made it.
All of them got across to the other side in their own way, however quirky, odd or clumsy.
And the instructor gave each of them a high five and told them how awesome they are. And each little face bobbed in the water, grinning and proud as punch.
None of them were bothered that they hadn’t done it perfectly – they are just learning.
The key for them is that they are learning more each lesson – so they are consistently practicing and consistently improving – remember, a few months ago, none of them could swim.
And it got me thinking.
How often do you beat yourself up in your business because you’re only managing to doggy paddle but you want to be doing Olympic level front crawl? You want to be perfect but you’re just a beginner?
- I know some women business owners look at other people with thousands of Facebook fans and see their page with a few hundred likes, and beat themselves up about not being good enough.
- I know that some female entrepreneurs look at other people writing amazing blogs and e-newsletters and are too scared to even try, in case they don’t measure up.
- I know some women who see competitors with flashy websites and they are ashamed of their own basic but functional websites to the extent that they don’t like to promote them.
- I know TOO MANY women who don’t start things (or more commonly don’t finish things) because they’re scared that the end result won’t be perfect. So they don’t bother.
What if those little swimmers in Chloe’s class had simply not bothered to learn because they couldn’t get it perfect first time around?
I vividly remember Chloe during her first set of swimming lessons – I asked her what she was best at. She said ‘sinking’. It made me laugh because it was true. But she didn’t give up!
So the moral of the story is twofold.
First of all, you can’t master something the first time that you do it, from social media to blogging, from public speaking to getting Facebook fans. Mastery takes time and practice. Consistently.
Secondly, perfection is over-rated. All the time you’re worrying about getting things perfect, you’re not getting your products, services, blogs or social media out there. You’re stuck at the side of the pool trying to perfect your Olympic front crawl when a doggy paddle would get you to the other side.
Come on in, the water’s lovely!
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.