AT A GLANCE…

Read this if…
You have ever hesitated to try something, start something, or develop something.

This post in one sentence…
What should you do if you want to launch something new, but your something doesn’t feel ready?

How you can engage…
Share this specifically with people who have great ideas and need to move forward. Or any perfectionist you know! Lastly, leave a comment with your start story. I’d love to read about your experience.


So you’re afraid to:

  • Launch that blog
  • Start that second service
  • Hire that team member you really need but can’t afford
  • Redo your service format

But you just can’t pull the trigger. Ever wonder why? This could be the answer:

I have always loved Seth Godin. I’ve probably read all of his books. His blog. Basically everything Seth says resonates with my marketing inner-self.

Seth talks a lot about launching new stuff. He famously labeled it “shipping.” Seth’s stance is simple: “Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.” I love that, even though it scares me to death.

Honestly, Seth’s encouragement is the reason I launched a blog. I partially wanted a new, fresh space to ideate and create content, but I also knew launching a blog would be an exercise in “shipping” something. Most likely, shipping something lousy, but at least shipping something.

Recently, I was reminded how true Seth’s stance really is. I was looking over some old blog post and I wanted more than anything to rewrite and republish them all, apologizing to anyone who accidentally endured these early writings in the process. As a blogging newbie, I didn’t know what to write about. I didn’t know how to blog. Once I posted all my Kindle highlights from a book. Who wants to read 5 pages of my highlights!?! And I was not a good conversational writer. For two years I had only written academically (insert incessant footnotes here…), and nobody enjoys reading a textbook! I had no clue how to take the oral communication skill I was developing and transition it to the written word. But I battled through the resistance (another concept I’ve embraced from Seth) and shipped. And I’m glad I did. I still feel sorry for my early readers, but I’m glad I pushed through. And while I’m still not an expert blogger or great writer, I’m learning and improving with each subsequent little shipment.


THE PERVERSION OF PERFECTION

I bring this up because there is an important leadership lesson for us all to recognize: There is a tension between launching something good and never launching anything perfect. There is a massive tension in launching a new product, service, blog, idea, art, or as I do in my job, ministry environment. The tension is the pull between shipping something that’s good and waiting to ship something perfected.

And we want perfection, because perfection protects us from criticism and failure. Launching attracts critics. Launching invites failure. I’ve never met anyone completely impervious to critiques. Innovation is always at a premium, because few people can allow their art to be ripped apart without allowing their heart to be ripped in the process.

My natural instinct is to launch perfection, although I don’t believe that to be unique to me. I want to iron out all the wrinkles, anticipate all the issues, and resolve all the problems BEFORE I launch an idea. Unfortunately, that is completely unrealistic, mostly because wrinkles, issues, and problems are all discovered THROUGH the experience of a launch. Of course, we want the public to only see a final, perfected product, but product perfection only comes through product evolution. We are tempted to believe our favorite companies and products launched in the form we experience today, but in reality, very few companies, products, services, or ministries look the same today as when they launched. Why? Because launching perfection isn’t possible. Perfection is a process, not a product.


RESOLVING THE TENSION OF PERFECTION

So how do you break through the tension of launching good versus waiting to launch perfection?

1. Become a Launch Darwinist.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is based on survival of the fittest through adaptation to surrounding environments. Whether you believe in human evolution or not, the concept is helpful to embrace while launching anything new. By nature, the environment in which a new product, service, or ministry is offered is somewhat unknown until the product, service, or ministry experiences the environment first hand. Consider every R&D department. Regular experience in the environment is necessary for product evolution to occur. And launching is required for the experience to begin. Perfection is found through the evolution. As I said before, perfection is a process, not a product.

2. Redefine success.

To launch is to succeed – period. Too often leaders with ambition to create and innovate attempt to define success in traditional ways (i.e., revenue, customer acquisition, profit, awareness, etc.). And while these should be a part of defining success, they must not define success alone. To launch is to succeed.

3. Rethink failure.

I’m not sure why we are so scared to fail. I take that back – I do know why, because I’m just as scared as the next guy. But can you imagine if we collectively moved past the fear and just launched stuff? Think of the problems we would solve. Imagine the products we could develop. The ministries we would launch. The people we could impact.

There are two primary reasons we consider something to have failed:

1) It didn’t achieve our definition of success (see point 2)
2) The critics around us defined failure for us.

What I’ve learned is the people defining your failure will most likely never fail themselves, because you can’t position yourself to fail if you never try anything new. And trust me, if you have time to criticize others, you don’t have time to launch yourself. So ignore the critics and redefine your own success.

4. Stop “liking” things and start doing something.

Social media has given us a way to feel engaged without engaging. I give you Facebook’s “like” button as exhibit A. I’m as guilty as you. I see a problem, but rather than help find a solution, I “like” your post about the problem. But I’ve yet to see a problem “liked” into a solution.

My wife has a keychain that reads, “Do Hard Things.” And she does. I’m trying to adopt her approach to launching. Rather than seeing a problem and tweeting about it, she does something about it. Check out Forever We. She launched this organization to help provide solutions and comfort to children in need while educating and engaging children who are not. You can learn more about her vision and the company on her site, but the point is simple: Don’t like things, DO things.

5. Prefect the process, not the product.

Perfection is more a perversion than an achievable outcome. No product, service, or ministry is ever perfect, because the target is constantly moving. Perfect is never perfect, because the target is never still. Culture is changing, and with it, our needs. Therefore, chasing perfection is a chase in futility.

Instead, we should perfect the development process. If we can systematically launch and improve along the way, we will constantly be moving towards our target, which is constantly moving, as well.

The tension between launching good and never launching perfect is real in every industry and every individual. And this tension is what keeps the majority of us from ever creating and launching something great.

As a ministry leader, I hope to never fall prey to this tension again, because there is too much at stake to not launch. Too many people who need to be reached. Too many relationships that need to be restored. Too many offenses that need to be forgiven. And the solution is not far away — it just takes a commitment to launch.

What would you like to launch? Better yet, what are you GOING to launch? I’d love to know, and I’d love to help if I can. Leave a comment below, or you can reach me directly HERE.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Mary Young says:

    I’m not looking to launch anything that I know of, although God might have other ideas he hasn’t shared with me yet. But as I reached the end of your post, the thought that came to mind was God’s command to Gideon — “Go now, in the strength that you have…”

    We never think the strength that we have is enough, and it keeps us from launching.

  • Brandon Bridges says:

    Well communicated Gavin. Keep up the good work at Watermarke and beyond… Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Annette says:

    This article is so true. Long story, but I wrote a song almost two years ago. This one simple step of faith changed my life. I retired from my job of 34 years and was able to “launch” a new career in writing. Currently, there’s just the one song, but there are books which I believe is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now. The day I received my first book in the mail to proof I was like a kid at Christmas. I was literally jumping up and down screaming, “I wrote a book, I wrote a book.” Is it perfect or are the other books perfect? No. There are typos and grammar problems which a good editor could fix I’m sure. I cringed when I saw the first one. But that hasn’t stopped me. So, a song, a non-fiction and 5 children’s books later, now I have drafted my first novel. The manuscript is waiting to be edited. Not so it will be perfect but so it will be worthy to sell at auction. What I have learned in this new journey in my life is . . . be willing to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Your five points of resolving the tension of perfection are spot on point. There was only one who was perfect and that is Jesus. So why we insist on trying to be perfect is far beyond me. Thanks for your blog!

  • I loved this post even before I saw that you mentioned me in it. I’m struggling right now, so your timing was perfect.

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