For most of my life, I have been great at starting things. Ideas flow forth from my brain and I get excited at the prospect of doing this or the other. Whether it was starting a new model kit, a new diary in January, a commitment to a new hobby, DIY jobs or a website to promote and support a new career path.
But typically, I fall into old patterns of behaviour and things lay unfinished. The model kits have long since been consigned to the bin, I have a box of three-quarter-empty diaries that could reconstitute a small tree and an Amazon order history full of weird and wonderful devices, components and tools. And up to today, this website is testimony to my inability to (largely) see things through to completion.
Not to mention the sheets of board, screws, nails and piles of timber filling up the shed.
**Disclaimer: I have actually completed and achieved a fair bit in my life, but if I had finished 75% of that which I’ve started, I’d be in a very different space to where I am currently**
Why is incompletion my default?
My long-suffering wife is a Psychotherapist. A very good one, I might add (and just in case she reads this!) There are many types of Psychotherapy and her background is in Transactional Analysis (TA). TA is defined (by Wikipedia at least) as:
Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the patient (whether parent-like, child-like, or adult-like) as a basis for understanding behavior. In transactional analysis, the patient is taught to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems. The method deviates from Freudian psychoanalysis which focuses on increasing awareness of the contents of unconsciously held ideas. Eric Berne developed the concept and paradigm of transactional analysis in the late 1950s
In TA theory, you have 3 ego states – Parent, Adult and Child. There is also the concept of Life Scripts, or just Scripts along with a system of Injunctions (Negative Parent > Child messages), Permissions (Positive Parent > Child messages) and Counter-Injunctions (messages that can reinforce or contradict your Injunctions). Check here for a more detailed read. Scripts in principle, are a unconscious pathway created in childhood, reinforced by our parents, and strengthened with evidence sought throughout life ensuring our beliefs are justified. Counterinjunctions are drivers that influence thinking, feeling and behaviour (doing) and are used as a defence mechanism
- “Be Perfect”
- “Be Strong”
- “Try Hard”
- “Please (people)”
- “Hurry Up”
All very interesting, but where’s this going?
Sometime ago, my wife identified my primary driver as “Be Perfect” with a secondary of “Try Hard” . In TA terms, my desire to start lots of actions and take on more than I perhaps have the bandwidth for, is a result of my Try Hard driver. My inability to complete said started activities is covered in my Be Perfect – I want my outputs to be so good that I get bogged down in trying to make them perfect and over-thinking what I’m doing. It also explains why I find it hard to delegate work tasks to others because I don’t trust them to do it as well as I would (if I actually finished it!) But there’s also a defence mechanism at play here, because if I don’t complete a task, I can’t be criticised for the quality of it. That I’m happy to be criticised for not completing a task may seem counter-intuitive. It is. But that’s how these things work (sometimes).
And this is why one of my wife’s many nicknames for me is “Half-a-Job Steve“.
But in failing to complete so many tasks, I also deny myself the reward of self-congratulation and a sense of achievement. And in turn, that feeds my sense of frustration.
Peter McKinnon – “Done Is Better Than Perfect”
In one of my many tangential, time-wasting, effort-diverting meanders though that Black Hole known as YouTube – “It’s about Photography, it’s research, honest!” – I came across Peter Mckinnon’s channel. “Another brash know-it-all I-can make-you-a-better-photographer North American” I thought. I don’t dislike Americans and Canadians but I am inherently introverted. I cringe so easily, when confronted with what I consider other people’s extroversion and exhibitionism. David Brent’s dance from The Office being a prime example.
Going back to TA once again, it’s because I carry very little Free Child – the ego state that celebrates spontaneity and free play. I’m mostly Parent and Adult, heavily filtering my emotions and not letting the mask slip. I’m the eldest of three siblings, and my brother who came just a year after me was demanding. Being of a more placid nature, I was left to my own devices and I guess I learnt to self-soothe to a certain extent. So when confronted with such displays of effusiveness, I retreat to my script. Inwardly though, I am jealous of their ability to be “Out in the world” so easily.
So Peter is a Canadian photographer who has found his artistic groove and entrepreneurial voice and is a genuine YouTube sensation. He amassed 1m+ followers inside of 12 months (now in excess of 3.5m at this time of writing). His mantra is:
“Done Is Better Than Perfect”
He doesn’t believe in procrastination, waiting for all the elements to be lined up before starting something. Get out there, shoot it, post it, move on.
It’s the antithesis to my own inaction. Peter believes the more you do, no matter how bad your starting position is, that eventually the ratio of good to bad tips in favour of the good. And on the surface, there’s a lot to commend this approach, especially if you are struggling to build any kind of momentum.
The question for me is whether a 5 word catchphrase is enough of a driver for me to overcome a lifetime of creative inertia and ego state script.
As an aside, and My Youtube Channel is older than Peter’s. He has 300+ videos. I have 2. Taken on my phone and of my daughter. Granted, I’ve not set out to purposely create a YouTube “brand”. And mentioning my daughter, she’s nearly 9 and wants to have a YouTube Channel. “Great” I thought, “I can shoot her videos and improve my videography skills in the process. A Win-win”. That was nearly 2 years ago…
So What Does This All Mean For My Photography?
One purpose of this website is to provide a shop window for my services, to give prospective clients visual confirmation that I can supply them with the images they want. Unsurprisingly, if you’ve read this far, you’ll find my portfolio pages are half-arsed. I’m struggling to allocate time to go through my archive (currently over 30000 images from the last 12 years) and pluck out the images I want people to see.
Outside of this website, I have unfinished photosets and photobooks languishing in Lightroom. I have unfinished music projects in Cubase. I have unfinished videos in Adobe Premier. I have incomplete online training courses. I have a list of personal photography projects that haven’t progressed past the form of a list of projects. I will be looking at what I need to do, what I want to do and what I have the capacity to do. If it means a severe cull and curb on the breadth of my activities, so be it. Or maybe I end up down-sizing so I can try my hand at the things that interest me in more achievable, realistic targets. Just get it done.
I’m not claiming that I will be embracing Peter’s mantra wholesale. But now every time I get stuck because I don’t have this item, or I put off doing something now because it’s not right (read = not good enough), I’m going to repeat “Done Is Better Than Perfect”. And see what happens. Then in a month’s time, a year’s time, I’m going to look back from then to now and see what I have accomplished.
Because there’s hope on the horizon.
This will be my first published blog for the site. A website that first saw the light of day over 3 years ago. I woke up at 6 am today and decided it was finally time to write a post. It wasn’t going to matter how well it read. It wasn’t going to matter if it was ideologically or philosophically sound. I was going to write it and post it. OK, I had initially allocated 30 minutes to the task. It’s just gone 11.30 am BST, I have other pressing things to do that keep dragging my attention away, and I’ve had a couple of interruptions (school run etc). But I’ve stuck at it.
And now it’s done. No more edits, no more tweaks.
“Done Is Better Than Perfect”
It’s ended up being a lot more frank, honest and self-disclosing than I had intended. And possibly not the best advert for prospective customers to read either. But that’s OK. Eventually this post will be buried in the archive of this site, and being the first post, with a current follower set of ZERO, not many people will actually read it. But I will know I have written it. I have exorcised some ghosts along the way and I
will already feel better for it.
And when I click “Publish”, it will be out there.