You’ve been up on that diving board
Making sure that it’s nice and straight.
You’ve made sure that it’s not too slick.
You’ve made sure it can stand the weight.
You’ve made sure that the spring is tight.
You’ve made sure that the cloth won’t slip.
You’ve made sure that it bounces right,
And that your toes can get a grip –
And you’ve been up there since half past five
Doin’ everything… but DIVE.
~Shel Silverstein, Diving Board from “Falling Up” ©1996 Harper Collins Publishers
How many times has this been you, on the end of the diving board, doin’ everything but dive? It’s been me, more than once in my life. What can I say? I like to be prepared. I want to be sure. I want to minimize risk. Because if I dive…
What if I do a bellyflop?
What if I fall off the side?
What if I hit my head on the bottom?
What if just flat-out die?!
There is, of course, a slight chance that one or more of those things could happen. On the flip side is the strong chance that I’ll make a smooth, clean dive; maybe not perfect, but definitely amazing.
We so often get caught up in making sure every.single.detail is in place, and then when it’s time to make the leap, we hesitate. We decide we need just a little more information, to check things one more time, before we can jump.
If we don’t become aware of that pattern, we’ll never jump. We’ll just keep bouncing in place, thinking we’re making progress and doing something, when really, we’re just… bouncing.
When you trust yourself and trust the process, you discover that you can dive, again and again and again. You find out the water is friendlier than you thought, more inviting and warmer than you expected.
Sure, we’re still going to check for loose screws and sharp edges… at least for me, that’s part of my I’m-an-introvert-so-don’t-surprise-me personality. If I can prevent disaster, I will. And once I’ve done what I can, I do what I have to do, and DIVE with no regrets.
What diving board are YOU up on? What’s it gonna take to get you to DIVE IN?!?
Lori Richardson says
Beth – I love the poem, the illustration, and the post. Working with so many self-described "perfectionists" who simply cannot execute to get things done has given me a real sense of how common this seems to be.
Instead, just get started, and work to improve over time. When people don't think this can be a sound business philosophy I suggest studying the development of the software industry – first there is beta, revisions, and updates. In a web-based world it is less apparent but always happening.
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I get into this 'analysis paralysis' myself, and it's definitely not a good feeling or space to be in when nothing gets done!
It reminds me of a mentor of mine who once said "Done is better than perfect."
You probably have heard the advice something to the effect of 'building the plane while your flying it'! That way, we can always correct course when in the process of forward movement, if necessary.
Scary? Absolutely. But, that's how I know I'm up to something BIG in the world.
Thanks for the great reminders, Beth.
Barbara Breckenfeld says
Beth – This is a timeless topic! I realized as I read it that when I'm on a deadline it is easier to do my best and move on. This was certainly true when I had a job, and others' expectations of my, and my promise to do something by a certain time, forced me to hit send (or whatever).
I used the word 'forced' because I am very familiar with the end of the diving board. Prime example: putting up my own web site. I'm a professional marketer, so it had to be a stellar example of my professional work, right?
Well, maybe not if it took me years to get one put up. What I actually launched is far from perfect, and needs updating right now. However, our friend Lori Richardson was good enough to remind me just yesterday that it was not a deal breaker for most businesses wanting to grow their sales. Whew!
So what's a perfectionist to do? When I can stay focused and grounded in believing in myself and the value that I bring, my perspective becomes more, uh, rational. Will I always have high standards? I suspect I will, but I keep hoping to learn, little by little, how to stay present and seek opportunities to help others. It gets me off that diving board sometimes.
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Beth, wow – this hit home!
I'm consistently diving into biz and other waters, but only after much time shivering atop the diving board. Thanks for your own jump off Silverstein's poem to so beautifully illustrate this process – and inviting us to choose a different way.
Rick Harriman says
Nice post Beth – I am far from an introvert, but I am a procrastinator at times and this applies to us as well. keep 'em coming!
Boy, do I remember that high dive. It was between death by fright or humiliation because you became a laughing stock.
(All those kids waiting impatiently behind you. "Come on! Jump already!")
And then you finally did it and you didn't die. And you scrambled back over to the line at the ladder because you wanted to "do it again." I think it's our imagination that gets the best of us when we are standing at the end of that board, looking down at that water. All those what-if's.
Thanks for encouraging us to take that dive, Beth. It's well worth it. : )
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