Rule #7: It's Better to Look Stupid Than Perfect

I've said it before, and I'll say it again on this blog...

There is nothing special about me.

Throughout school, I was a B student...
I was never talented at sports...
And my English teachers would laugh if they knew I made a living from writing.

However, this lack of talent forced me to learn several crucial life skills:

  1. I had to develop a strong work ethic.
  2. I had to practice habitually.
  3. And I had to learn how to learn.

But I never would have developed these skills without one crucial factor:

I'm willing to look stupid.

And it is better to look stupid than perfect.

WHY WE AVOID LOOKING STUPID

The desire to be liked by the crowd is in our DNA.

We survived the harsh living conditions of our ancestors by sticking together in a tribe.

Due to our unique ability to work together, the tribe was safe. To maintain our place within it, we tried to show our strengths and hide our weaknesses.

Thanks to social media, showing your strengths and hiding your weaknesses is easier today than ever before.

You can craft the exact persona you want to show the world β€” and don't need to reveal your vulnerability.

If I don't want you to see the areas in which I am weak or ignorant, I can leave those off my Facebook "highlight reel."

With enough time, effort, and filter selection, I can make it look like I'm living a perfect life.

Why admit to the world that I had to move back in with my parents, when I can just highlight the fact that I'm a published author!

Why take a chance, start something new, and risk falling flat on my face?

Why look stupid, when I can look perfect?

THE BIG PROBLEM WITH LOOKING PERFECT

Nobody is perfect.

We all have flaws. Being imperfect is part of being human.

We all know this.

So trying to look perfect will only isolate you from your friends and from reality.

Rather than confront your issues, your weaknesses, and become more self-aware β€” your strategy will become denial.

You will begin to avoid anything that reveals your weaknesses, you will run away from challenges, and you will cover up anything that doesn't fit your idea of perfection.

Eventually, you will spend the majority of your time and energy hiding your flaws β€” rather than improving them.

IMPROVING YOUR FAILURES

Whenever I tell someone that I create content for a living, it's usually followed up with some version of the question,

"...that's your full-time job?"

I don't blame people for asking this question. Of the dozens of content creators I have met over the years, there are fewer than five I know who do it full-time.

Simply put, this is a tough way to make a living.

Beyond being a struggle to make rent each month, you are consistently putting yourself out there to be judged by the world.

You are setting yourself up for constant criticism β€” especially from the person you see in the mirror.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates β€” winner of the MacArthur genius grant β€” said:

"The challenge of writing is to see you horribleness on the page. To see your terribleness and then to go to bed.

Then wake up the next day, and take that horribleness and terribleness and refine it. And make it not so horrible and not so terrible.

And come the next day and make it...not so bad. Then go to bed the next day and make it maybe...average.

Then after one more pass, if you're lucky, maybe you get to 'good.'"

And this is coming from a writer who was so good that he won The Genius Grant!!

If he's claiming that at best he produces something that is merely "good," what chance do you and I have to produce anything worthwhile?

Slim to none β€” but there's still a chance.

The difference comes down to your will to look at your own failures, your own weaknesses, and your own stupidity. Then come back the next day and make your flaws just a little bit better.

It is in this state of mind which I have thrived.

MY STUPIDITY β€” AND WILL TO IMPROVE IT.

When I started Willpowered I had a simple goal:

Write 1,000 words every day.

I knew that I could not control my talent for writing; I could not control who would come to my site and I could not control whether or not people would relate to my message.

But I could write 1,000 horrible, terrible, and embarrassing words today.

Then the next day, I could write 1,000 words that were just a little bit less horrible, less terrible, and less embarrassing.

Then do the same the next day...and the next.

I have now almost written 1,000,000 words β€” But I'm still horribly embarrassed by every first draft I write.

But I am less embarrassed by the drafts I write today than the ones I wrote last year. And I know I will be even less embarrassed by the drafts I write next year at this time.

I will never write a perfect article, a perfect paragraph, or even a perfect sentence β€” but that's not the goal.

The goal is to write 1,000 words per day that help you understand abstract scientific concepts and use them on your journey to become your best self.

And no matter how stupid I may look to myself or others, I will do everything I can to make that happen.

CONCLUSION β€” MAKE YOUR WORRIES CONCRETE

Much of our concern about "what people will think" comes from our fear of the unknown.

I still worry every time I publish a new article that I'm going to get "hate mail" from a subscriber who was shocked and offended by the horribleness of my writing.

This worry, however, only exists in the unknown. I've written over 200 articles, and have only received 1 harsh email that really stung β€” which was over 2 years ago now.

So when I receive a subscriber email, I force myself to open it up and read it.

Otherwise, my mind will wander to negative places about what it might say β€” despite the 99.5% chance that it will be positive or constructive.

Whenever you're worried about what people may think when you, "put yourself out there," use that as a cue for action.

It won't be easy at the moment, but if you can summon the courage to open yourself up to criticism, you will find that it's better to look stupid, than perfect.

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