Some years ago I was suffering from some fairly extreme anxiety.
One of the ways the anxiety manifested was that I felt like I was being constantly graded.
During every meal I cooked, every parallel-parking job, every audition, every everything, I felt like someone, somewhere, was monitoring my every move and keeping track in a big notebook about how well or, more often, how poorly I was executing my life.
So I decided that if I could not disabuse myself of the idea that I was being graded, then I would just try to get a C — which is the grade you get for showing up and doing the work.
Not doing the work better than everyone else, not doing extra-credit work — just showing up and doing the work.
I was quite pleased with this idea, and I shared it with my sister during one of our almost-daily phone conversations. She agreed that it sounded like a jim-dandy strategy and wished me luck with it.
Then we went on to discuss the real topic of our conversation that day: our father had moved into a new apartment and we wanted to send him a housewarming gift. I said I would take care of it.
A day or two later we were on the phone again and she asked me if I’d sent anything to Dad yet.
“Well, no,” I explained, “because I want to get him something nice but still within our budget, and I was thinking about something for his kitchen although he already has quite a bit of kitchen stuff so maybe there ’s a better idea if we do some sheets or maybe towels, maybe monogrammed, or —”
“Sam!” my sister interrupted. “Get a C — send a plant.”
Ah, the pure ring of truth!
Ten minutes later I had spent less than fifty bucks at an online flower delivery website for a handsome Dieffenbachia plant, and the next day my father called both of us to say thank you and to tell us how lucky he felt to have such thoughtful daughters.
Here’s the point: my desire to find the perfect thing for my father was preventing me from finding anything for my father.
My willingness to take the budget-friendly, obvious option (a houseplant) allowed me to do what we really wanted to do to begin with, which was just let our dad know that we loved him and hoped he was happy in his new digs.
There are two more reasons you can afford to get a C.
One, your version of a C is probably everybody else ’s version of an A.
Two, if you get your work out there and then find that it needs to be made more perfect, well, then, you’ll improve it, right?
That’s how you roll.
How is your desire to do the perfect thing getting in the way of your doing anything?