When you think of the word addiction, it usually evokes very negative connotations. Dictionary.com defines it as follows: “Noun: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
Are there positive connotations? Do you have any positive addictions? I know I do. Sometimes it takes other people to point them out. I still remember what Rob Peck, a fellow speaker from New England, said to me once that still echoes through my head today:
“When are you going to create a program on how to get things done?”
I stepped back and thought deeply about his statement. Rob had known me from the very beginning of my career. He had seen my career come from nothing. His statement helped me see the one constant that has helped me keep growing immeasurably. I admit it. I have a problem:
I’m addicted to ‘Done.’
How many projects have you started and not finished? What is looming over your head right now? What if you could celebrate just one more step toward being done?
I’m not quite sure where my addiction came from or even when it started. I do know that it is real. I do know that it serves me. I do know that there is nothing like the feeling of pulling out the big black sharpie to cross something off my list. Done! I wish someone would invent a “to do list” app in which items you checked off would then explode into thin air, or a regiment army of trumpets would blare.
Maybe it starts with feelings. How do you feel about big projects or your “to do” list? Emotions are connected to our actions. If I had to guess where my addiction came from, it was probably from my desire for my dream to come true. After my business failure and the financial need to live at home with my parents, I was hungry. I wanted badly not to have to work for someone else. I wanted to do what I loved for a living. It wasn’t about being rich; it was about freedom.
At the very beginning of my career, I had no credibility, no talent, no expertise, and no connections. Fresh from learning the lesson after my sub shop failure, I knew it was all up to me. As a speaker, I was far from good enough to be represented by a speakers’ bureau. I had heard about famous comedians who started out by speaking for free at colleges and by selling their comedy cassette tapes after the show. Wow. That was good enough for me. I was speaking anywhere and everywhere for free, and I had my self-published book and my audio program, Learn How the Pros Make ‘Em Laugh. If I didn’t make calls for giving speeches, I didn’t earn anything. If I didn’t get on stage, I didn’t earn anything. If I didn’t have any helpful tools for people to walk away with, I didn’t earn anything.
I’m so glad I had slow success. I’m so glad now that it took me a long time. The reason? It helped me develop the discipline of “Done.” Having debt, along with feeling the responsibility of paying it off (Thanks, Mom, Dad, and David.) and liking to eat, helped keep me motivated to get things done. I would not change a thing. I realized,
“If you take away my struggle,
you take away my growth.”
One of the disciplines that helped me early on was creating a little celebration. I love music, and when you are struggling, you don’t really have a lot of expendable cash. I made myself a deal: every time I got paid, I would celebrate and buy myself a CD. If I got paid $50, I would buy myself a CD. If I earned $500, I would buy myself a CD. That reward felt good. It also gave me something to work towards and made those CDs mean a great deal to me. They mean even more now in reflection.
Consider this: what if you broke down your big goals or projects into small, bite-sized tasks or steps? What could you do to celebrate each step? The key for me was the small expenditure and the discipline to buy only one CD per transaction, regardless of income. I think we all need a little celebration along the way to “Done.” I never considered buying a CD between transactions. That would have diluted the effect and the meaning behind the CDs I did get.
I heard Alan Weiss, PhD, say, “Done is better than perfect.” The more I coach emerging speakers on their businesses, the more I realize, “Done is also more profitable than perfect.” I honestly didn’t know that most people don’t finish things. The easiest way to stand out in a crowd is to be a finisher. There are many poor perfectionists out there. Do you fall in the perfectionist category? I’ve heard so many people say, “I’m working on a writing a book.” I have found very few people finishing them. Those who do are so excited about their accomplishments, it is ridiculous.
I’ve found, though, that there is also a big danger to my addiction. Quite frankly, it has caused me some problems. Sometimes I generate too much too quickly. I was so addicted to “Done” that I used to write articles like this and send them out without editing. I just wanted them done. I didn’t worry about typos; I believed in my content and my intention.
As a result, many “grammarians” sent me emails about mistakes in my articles. I thought, “No biggie. Did you like the content?” My own brother used to tell me that I needed an editor, badly. He was right for a couple of reasons. First, some people could not get past the typos to “hear” the content. Second, some people would opt off of my Stage Time e-newsletter because of it. Ouch.
It used to crack me up when professional speakers would email me about typos on my sales letters. When I looked at their websites, I saw that they did not even have products to sell. That reminded me that my sales letters with typos were more profitable than the projects that were sitting on their hard drives.
Now I realize that they read the sales letters and that the typos bothered them enough for them to send me an email. They probably didn’t buy. How many other people felt the same way and never emailed me. I lost sales, I’m sure.
I saw that my brother was right. (Ugh, don’t you hate that?) I have since added an editor to my process. It adds a step, it is a small investment, and it adds a little time as well. Lesson learned.
If you are one of my “perfectionist” readers, I implore you to get version 1.0 of any project done. You do not have to release it to the world yet. Start with some trusted friends. Feedback from other people is priceless. It could be exactly what you need to make it more valuable and almost perfect. Keep in mind,
“You can’t improve
what you haven’t created.”
When I launched my program, You Post It, You Profit, I was excited. I loved the title. It was benefit-oriented. Who doesn’t want to profit? I showed people how to create and upload videos to YouTube in order to drive traffic to their websites. It was great content. I made it step-by-step, easy to follow.
One problem. It didn’t sell. Even though I mentioned that it was a YouTube “how-to,” people were confused by the title. I found myself explaining it over and over again in the back of the room. That feedback helped me realize that there was a huge problem. Confusion.
Get it done. Master storyteller and screen writing coach Michael Hague says, “Write your sloppy first copy.” Get that done. In my studies I’ve learned there are no great first copies of movie scripts; it takes version one to get to version two. Many times it can require many versions before it is sold. Once it is sold, the movie company that buys it edits it more!
Thank you, Rob, for pointing out something I often take for granted. “Done” is my best addiction. With the right intention and a willingness to be wrong first, it can lead to great results.
It may be an addiction, it may be an affliction, but it sure has served me well. What can you do to make being “Done” more exciting? Do it. You won’t regret finishing; you’ll only regret not finishing. As for this article, it’s done.
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