How to overcome perfectionism as a mompreneur w/Ceri Payne
The Goodness Squad Podcast Episode #102
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Perfectionism can prevent you from moving forward in your business. That’s why I have always believed in and preached Done is better than Perfect. Maybe you don’t agree with that phrase though. Ceri Payne is back to share her thoughts on why it just might be possible to strive for A-level work, even if you’re trying to overcome perfectionism.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Today I have a fun guest for you. This is actually her second time on The Goodness Squad podcast. So far, she’s the only guest I’ve had on twice. I’m fairly careful about who I choose to have on the podcast here with you, because I really want them to be someone who can offer significant value to you and your business.
Ceri coaches entrepreneurs, particularly mothers who are entrepreneurs, in finding that balance between home and work. She has organizational systems and processes that help your business really move forward in ways that you may not have previously thought possible.
MISTY: So welcome Ceri. We’re honored to have you here, I have liked what you have taught me even just through our few brief conversations.
Before I jump into questions with Ceri today, I want to give you just a little bit of background about how this episode came to be. If you’ve been listening for awhile, you know that I preach ‘done is better than perfect.’ And I often pair that with the idea that you should be able to accept C+ work in your business.
C+/B- is around 79-80%, right? I think oftentimes we feel like C+ is awful. If our kids brought home a C+ we would be so dismayed, but I love this concept of C+ work. Ceri and I were just talking before this, but really you’re going to spend just as much time doing the last 20% to get the job done as you will the first 80%.
If we can let go of some of the perfectionistic tendencies that we, as women, sometimes have it can move our businesses forward. I love this concept and I know that it’s helped many of you.
Ceri left a comment a few months back on one of my Instagram posts and she said, “You know what? I like to shoot for A- work. That’s what I like to do.” And at first I was like, “Hmm, I don’t think you get what I’m saying.”
Is A- level work really possible?
The more I thought about it, the more I really pondered on what she was trying to say, the more intrigued I was. Ceri actually reached out and we ended up having a conversation over FaceTime and discussing the difference between these two concepts of:
- Can I really reach A- work?
- Why could C+ work be damaging to some people?
Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that it’s tomato, toma(h)to. Some of it just depends on what you call it. I really want you to hear Ceri’s perspective because it opened up my eyes to a new way of looking at things, which I think may be helpful for many of you. So let’s get to it.
So Ceri, tell me a little bit about why the phrase C+ work bothers you?
Define your own grade level
CERI: That’s a great question. For me, I guess it’s a little bit defeating. A lot of people are teaching that C+ work is okay. But what I hear is that maybe they’re saying A- work is not typical or A- work is too hard, so don’t even try to do that. Just get your business with C+ work. So, like I said, it’s a little bit defeating.
What we can, hopefully, communicate throughout this whole thing is just the level that you feel good at that’s making the work get into the world.
So if you want it to be A- work, if that’s what you say it is, versus C+ work, just get it out in the world.
As you asked that question, I was thinking, “why doesn’t it sit well with me?” And I remember a story of when my principal was doing an evaluation and he gave me a lot of twos and threes on this evaluation (with fours being the highest). He said “I know, and you know, that you really deserve a lot of fours but if I give you all fours, then the district is going to think I’m not doing my job correctly, that I’m not leaving room for improvement.”
While I appreciate that perspective, I also remember thinking “but what if they saw a principal with all fours?” I would wonder, “what is this principal doing? Are they doing a really good job?” What if this principal is really inspiring and allowing their teachers to succeed.
From my perspective, I felt like they were sending the message that we want to judge you based on a four, but we don’t think it’s realistic and we don’t think you should really get it. So just be okay with twos or threes, even if you deserve the fours, because we’re not handing them out.
So that’s why I feel like it’s kind of defeating.
MISTY: So you’re thinking it could hold somebody back from creating their best.
CERI: Yeah. It was almost like, “well, why would I try to be a two or three or four and change things in my classroom because it’s not even possible.” Right? You might be a four, but we’re not going to give you a four.
MISTY: Just to clarify, for those of you who are listening, I should have mentioned that Ceri is a teacher. So when she says she got twos, threes or fours from her principal, she’s not talking about when she was a child. This was as a teacher, and her principal was giving her grades. This was as an adult.
I really like this perspective that we don’t want to have the phrase ‘C+ work’ give you permission to do crappy work or make you feel like it’s pointless to do really good work. That is not what we’re trying to teach. We don’t want you to feel defeated by this.
As we were talking about this on FaceTime, Ceri brought up a phrase that I love. We had been talking for 10 or 15 minutes, and I was still kind of like, “nah, I don’t know, Ceri. I don’t know.” And then she brought up this phrase and it was kind of mind blowing for me.
She said, “what if you were putting out A work, as a third grader?” So tell us more about that.
Don’t hold yourself to someone else’s grade level
CERI: Yeah, sorry, there’s going to be a lot of teacher analogies because that’s what I’ve done for so many years before becoming a coach. But I like to say that when we start our business, we often look for this guidance and this inspiration from people that are a bit further along in our business than we are.
So I like to say, maybe they’re in seventh grade or maybe they’re in high school. So they are producing A work, but at their grade level. Or at their business level. If we are new, if we’re still learning or if maybe we haven’t gotten the results yet that we want in our business, then maybe we’re like a third grader. But at that level you can produce A- work for the third grader.
What’s happening is, or what we don’t realize is, we don’t hold third graders to the same expectations as the seventh grader. So why are we doing that to ourselves? I don’t think we’re doing it on purpose. We just don’t realize that we’re looking at these people and watching what they do, but they’re in a different grade.
I also strongly feel that if we were given the desire to grow a business, we were also given the abilities to make it successful. Maybe not the abilities of the seventh grader yet, but at the level that you currently are.
Think about people that are doctors or people that have a desire to become doctors. They just go through the school system like we do, and then they get to college and say “I think I want to be a doctor.” Well, they have all the abilities, but they didn’t get them all at once. They too started in kindergarten, just like the rest of us.
So if we think that we can get A’s in every grade, we’re wrong. It’s the A’s for the grade you’re currently in, not the high school, not the seventh grade or not whatever you’re comparing yourself to. Even that doctor had to go through the same levels. They were getting A’s, but at the grade level they were currently in.
MISTY: I love it. I love it so much. To me, that is a really freeing idea because I am a perfectionist. I claim it, I don’t want to be and I see the folly in it. I see the issues, but I struggle with this idea of, “Well, what do I let go of?”
So being able to think, “okay, I’m just a third grader. I want to become a sixth grader or graduating from high school or college, but right now I’m just in third grade and there are things that I simply can’t do as well as the women I’m comparing myself with.”
That is a very, very empowering thought. It still allows me to do my best and give my best without having to try to reach for someone else’s best. So I love that phrase. Thank you.
So let’s jump over to perfectionism. I’m a perfectionist. A lot of my readers are perfectionists. So, for us, shooting for A+ work or A- work can oftentimes lead to procrastination because we get caught up in these minor details.
It doesn’t matter what shade of purple, just pick a purple for your business or for your website. For me, even with this business, even after 12 years of experience, I still took a couple of weeks to pick my dang brand colors. I know that it’s holding me back. And so when I say to myself, “okay, it’s just C+. Just move forward” that allows me to let go of those brand colors.
What are your thoughts, as you think about people who are perfectionists and know that this isn’t something that you personally really struggle with, but I know that you’ve worked with a lot of women who do, so give us your advice. What would you do?
CERI: Yeah, this is a great question. Definitely go back and listen to what we said about comparing yourself and expecting high school level A‘s from your third grade self. Everyone starts out in kindergarten, so don’t be afraid to fail, to make mistakes, to ask for help, to cry, to celebrate the small wins. That’s how we all eventually get to high school.
I even think a third grader, they may only have the eight pack of crayons. And then eventually as we get in higher grades we get to the 24 pack and then the 48 and then 164. I don’t know if that exists, but it was once upon a time. Then we have more options, but just know what we have now and use that.
Another interesting school analogy, in the science fair world I noticed that there are projects with unique or interesting ideas and then there are ones that are pretty layouts and beautiful presentations and perfectly spaced and lots of pretty colors and they use the best bubble letters. But I noticed that what gets further in competition are the ideas and the concepts that are helpful, that are unique, that are interesting. Those ones that are thought provoking. It’s not often the ones with the pretty layouts.
My kids have been in district science fairs a lot and I noticed that if their idea is something that’s unique, that’s what gets out in the world. So if you lead with what is unique and interesting and you don’t worry about making it pretty, then you will be able to put it out there. But if you wait for it to be perfect, guess what? You’ve missed the science fair. And then your chances of winning or, in our case in business, people knowing what you do, it’s very slim.
Stop letting perfectionism hold you back
So if you aren’t willing to put your work out there, if you think it could be better, then just maybe stop and ask yourself why? There’s a lot of self discovery, I believe. And the question of Why? What are you afraid of? If you put it out there with that color of purple, what are you afraid of? Why do you think it needs to be better or different? What are you judging? And maybe more importantly, what do you think other people are thinking about you when you put it out there? What do you think people are going to say about you?
That’s really what’s keeping that perfectionism side from putting the work out. It’s more fear. It’s not really your work and if you’ve done it well or not, it’s what you think other people are going to say about you.
MISTY: It has been very freeing for me, at times, when I remember to actually put it into action, “am I trying to serve myself or others by making this better?” I think this is similar to what you’re saying with the science fair, right? It’s the content itself, is what I’m putting out there going to be helpful to someone? Is it going to change their life in some way, improve their life in some way?
If that is the case and I am holding it back from them because of how it looks or because there might be a misspelled word or because I don’t know how to take video very well so I just did it in an email, then that’s a problem. That’s selfish. That’s us watching out for ourselves instead of caring about the people that God wants us to help, honestly, and that we need to get out there and help.
That kind of hurts a little sometimes when I’m really honest with myself that way “oh, I’m just really caring about myself. Not wanting people to think bad things about me” instead of really, truly caring about the person that I’m trying to help.
CERI: I’m sorry, I’m interrupting you. But as you were saying that I was thinking about, an Amazon package we got the other day. It was kind of taped a little weird and had a bunch of colors. And it wasn’t completely square, they’d stuffed something in it that wasn’t quite flat. And as you were talking, I’m like, “I didn’t care what the outside of that box looked like. I just wanted what was inside of it.” I just wanted the content.
It wouldn’t be a bad thing if someone wanted to make a really pretty box and make all their labels, if it was on brand. But really it’s what’s inside of it. We don’t care how Amazon gets it to us, we just want it on our porch when we want it. And then we want the thing in there, we’re hoping they will deliver to us the thing that we’re looking for.
MISTY: Excellent. Very, very true. And even when we talk about branding is the reason that we want to have nice, pretty package so that people think cool things of us? Or because we want to give a good experience to our people?
It’s really cool to open this really beautiful box and nice tissue paper. And that could be a cool experience that we want to give to someone, but that’s very different than it has to be in a pretty box before I send it out because people might think bad of me. Those are two different thoughts.
CERI: A lot of times we think that someone negatively critiquing our work is the worst thing that can happen. They’re going to hate it. They’re not going to like it. They’re going to talk bad about me. They’re going to tell people I’m horrible or whatever, but honestly, the worst thing that can happen is not having the impact on this world that you could have because you were too afraid or too focused on being perfect to put your stuff out there.
When we’re not putting our stuff out there, we don’t actually grow and learn because people can’t critique our work. They can’t tell us what we can do differently, how we can change, how we can improve if they don’t even know what we’re doing. So just remember the worst thing that can happen is not making the impact that you were meant to make, because you’re not letting people see what you’re thinking about doing.
Critiques and feedback are just information
MISTY: That’s profound. It reminds me of the talk from Elder Bednar. He talks about how, when you get a test and you get your score back on your test, it’s just information. That’s all it is. And I’ve started using that with my kids. Like my daughter, on the 1, 2, 3, 4 scale, she came home and she got a two on something and she was devastated.
And I said, “well, it’s just information. All of this is just telling us what we need to work on. It’s cool. I’m so glad we got that information because now we can move forward and work on it” and that’s empowering. So yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. That a really good thought.
My husband jumped on a call with me a few months ago with a potential attendee for the Get Stuff Done workshop. She wanted to come to the workshop, but it’s pricey, it’s expensive. And she was nervous and wanted to know if it was really worth it. And one of the things my husband said was, “We can’t promise that you come to this workshop and you’re going to have a successful business. We hope that that’s what’s going to happen. That’s our goal, but we can’t promise that.” We were talking about how we had invested thousands and thousands of dollars in my business when he was in law school and we were living on student loans and he said, “I wouldn’t go back and change it because of how Misty changed.”
Those first few businesses, they failed, as far as successful financial business goes but they didn’t fail in the sense that they changed who I was and I grew. That never would have happened if I hadn’t just stepped forward and put myself out there to the world. So yeah. Very valid point.
So now we’ve kind of talked about these two different ideas. But ultimately, we’re both saying the same thing – we really just want people to get their work out there. So how does somebody, particularly a perfectionist, tell the difference between C+ work and A- work?
How to tell the difference between C+ work and A- work
We mentioned a few ideas here, but really let’s get a little bit more concrete. How can they tell?
CERI: I think you could consider creating an outline of what you believe C+ work is, maybe B- work. What that is for you, because I think we all have different ideas of what those terms mean to us. Especially for our grade level or our business level.
So this might be similar to a classroom grading rubric. The teachers have different expectations and that’s why I think the rubric was created so that anyone can look at this project or anyone can look at this paper, no matter what background they come from, no matter what grade level they’re used to teaching. Because science fair judges, for example, they’re from the college areas, they’re not your third grade science teacher but if you have a rubric, then each teacher grading that paper can come up with that same grade or very similar to it. They’re just off by a few points.
So what I think for us, if we’re trying to decide if it’s C+ or B work for us, decide what you’re aiming for and then use your guidelines that you created when you were thinking of others.
MISTY: And I love that you said that, not when you were thinking of yourself, like what are they going to think? All those fear-based thoughts or I’m not as smart as… or if you’re worried it’s going to look stupid. So create your rubric when you were focused on serving.
CERI: So those rubric ideas are going to be different for everyone. Are you proud of what you learned? Did you give intentional work or thought in this project with your current circumstances that you have going on?
So if you had something unusual, maybe a death in the family or a kid that was home for COVID or whatever it may be. But do you, or did you, feel like you gave it the work that was best for your circumstances? Do you think what you created will help improve the lives of others, whether it’s providing entertainment or simplifying or allowing them to do whatever it is that your results based for your business?
That’s what you want to write. You want to increase their hopes, their desires, whatever it is. And so if you can focus on those things and put those things in your rubric, then when you start to notice are you worried about fear? Are you worried about what they’re going to think of you or are they worried about all this perceived judgment that you think that they’re going to do then you’re going to feel like it’s not good enough. If those are the thoughts that you’re thinking about, then I believe that you’re not really creating A- work, because if you’re not in the mindset of serving others, then I don’t think you’re putting that work out there that’s really going to help them.
MISTY: That’s a good point. So what I’m hearing is this rubric needs to be based more off of the purpose behind what we’re doing and the motivation behind what we’ve done, what we’re putting out into the world instead of the very sticky nitpicky details.
CERI: Yes. I like to call that the facts versus the drama. So if you can determine what needs to be different, if you can say this is C+ work because it’s missing this component or this is C+ work because I didn’t proofread or I didn’t edit or whatever it may be, but I’m just going to put it out there right now. Or I realize it may not be perfect and I’m waiting for feedback. I’m going to put it out there. I’ll do a course first. I’ll see what the feedback is and then I can decide if the feedback is enough to change it. But when you really know what are the facts of it versus the drama, if what’s going to bring it up to a higher level of work, then maybe you’re in that C+ work mode.
But if you’re thinking I don’t know if it’s good enough, it could be C+ it could be B-, we don’t know when you’re in the drama. And if you can’t answer that, go back to your rubric. The rubric should be able to tell you exactly where you’re at.
Create your own grading rubric for your business
MISTY: Okay Ceri, I have been kind of playing around with the idea of doing a webinar. So is this something that you would be willing to do with me – to sit down on a webinar where we can actually interact with people, answer their questions and let them leave with an example rubric? Like a good starting point for what a rubric should or could look like?
I know that you said that it’s something that they should of create on their own to some degree. Something that they can modify, but what are your thoughts around that?
CERI: Yeah, I think it would be a really cool idea. I think we’re going to have to brainstorm a little bit. I’m a special education teacher, so I’m so into individualized educational plans. That’s what the IEP stands for. I think we can really help them start to create what it looks like for them. And really make them think through some of the mindsets of what it would look like at each level for them.
Almost like “what grade level are you at” and kind of check in, are you expecting this high school work from a third grader? I think it would be really possible for us to do something that they could walk away with a rubric. And then as we graduate and go into a different grade, we can maybe say, we know how to do certain things in our business. Maybe those become B work now because they’re easier, we understand.
I can talk about this for hours. You just got my teacher brain going – yes, let’s create a rubric.
MISTY: Okay. Let’s do it. So, maybe instead of actually creating it for them, are you saying kind of teaching them during this webinar, the process of creating it for themselves?
CERI: Yeah, because I think it’s going to look different for everyone. That’s why I’m saying I go back to that IEP that I mentioned. It’s almost like their own individual rubric. These are the things we’re going to focus on to get you to where you need to what you need to know so that you’re prepared for the next thing.
And so we’re going to figure out what are those things for them, so that they’ll get work out into the world. Right? A kid in special education, they might not do the whole report on the Philippines. A 10 page thing with a paper and a background and a video. They might just do one part of it, but did they learn the same concepts? Did they learn that there are countries that are different than ours? Did they learn how to do research? Did they learn how to understand the country and fill in facts in a certain way?
Maybe they have a poster board of just facts. So maybe it’s not a complete paper with sentences, but for them that is their A work. That’s what we’re capable of. So maybe we can help them say, “What is my A work?” Is it the 10 page paper? Or is it just boxes of facts about the Philippines? That’s kind of where I help people understand, you can still learn the same things and it’s just going to look different.
MISTY: Okay. I’m excited. One of the things I like a lot about Ceri is how she says, “stop taking courses and actually get your own IEP.” And she said, individualized entrepreneur plan. And I love that, that concept that we are all individuals and that’s how Ceri approaches her coaching.
We’re going to do a webinar. We’re going to do it. We’ll let you know more details about it once we’ve solidified them and plan this out. But I have one more question for you before we sign off.
The podcast episode that was published last week was with Noelle Pikus Pace and she told us all that goals are great and fantastic, something that a lot of people are thinking about right now. But how do we take the concepts that we’ve talked about today, this done is better than perfect concept, and apply them to our goals for the year.
3 ways to apply Done is better than Perfect to your goals
CERI: All right. So let’s see if I can think of a great way to say this.
First, be honest with yourself and decide what grade you’re in for this goal. Are you starting as a kindergartener? Are you starting as a high schooler? So decide ahead of time what hitting your goal at the level that you want.
So if it’s an A- level or a C+ level, what that will mean to you. So for example, is this your very first time setting the goal to run a marathon? Or is it your fifth? When I ran my first half marathon, my goal was just to finish. If it was my fifth marathon, I’m not in the kindergarten level anymore. So what does that mean to me? What do I want to aim for in this goal? Is it your first year in business or is it your third year of business? Do you have three kids at home? Do you have everyone in school?
Take some time to assess your set of expectations for your knowledge, your health, your current situations, whether it’s time and family, the service that you have, the hours you want to put into your business. Take it all into account and then really recognize the grade level that you’re at.
Second, celebrate the small wins along the way. We don’t want to compare ourselves to other people in the older grades. We don’t want to compare ourselves to what we think all the other marathon runners are doing. Just compare yourself to yesterday, compare yourself to last week and et cetera.
That’s like in this IEP again, sorry to bring it up, but they will do this many times, like three out of four times with 80% accuracy. So are you getting up and doing that? If it’s a post, did you post three out of four times every week? And did you feel like you posted with that 80% /B-level work? You’re the only one that knows what that is for you.
Third, I think that if you can believe that you can achieve your goal at that level and you have that desire that you can. So really making sure that you believe in yourself to keep going.
The more likely you are to achieve the goal at the grade level you’re currently in is based on if you believe you can. But if you’re setting it at that high school level, and you’re still a fifth grader, you might not believe you can do that thing,
MISTY: Why is this so easy to see with kids? I’m thinking of my daughter right now, a couple of years ago when she was in third grade, she was so, so frustrated that she wasn’t as smart as her sixth grade brothers. They were doing all these cool things in math and starting to learn algebra.
And she was compaining, “I can’t even get my times tables.” And for me, I look at her and I was like, “well, of course you can’t because that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be learning right now. You can’t learn what they’re learning. You can’t do it. It’s not possible. I mean, it will be for you when you get to sixth grade, but you’re not there yet.”
So I love this. Okay. So recognize what grade level you’re at, celebrate the small wins and believe in yourself.
CERI: Yeah. Maybe you could accomplish it, but be realistic with “Hey, this is what I have going on.” Like you had to remind her that she was in third grade, this is what we’re doing right now. I think that’s just really good proof to think we’re all that way. We have to learn our times tables in third grade. And if we do, then we’re going to be so much more successful in third grade, in fifth grade or sixth grade, if we know our times tables.
And if not, we get to learn to use a calculator or we get to learn to do it our way. We don’t have to master everything. That’s when maybe you can say, “Hey, maybe this isn’t my thing.” That’s when I might say hire out or do without in my business. Maybe they get the multiplication table chart. Maybe they get a calculator because it’s the concepts that are most important.
If they’re really trying and they’re working hard and they’re just not getting the multiplication facts down and they’re just not being memorized, that’s not the end of the world because by the time this kid is in high school, most likely they’re going to have a smartphone in their hands. And so what can I teach them now? I would sometimes teach them how to use a calculator.
If I noticed, “Hey, the math facts aren’t working, we’re not coming along. We took a good year. We gave it our best shot. We didn’t just give up.” Eventually it’s time to introduce a calculator into this child’s life because what more could they learn if they have the hire out or do without mindset?
MISTY: Yeah, I think that’s awesome. What can we hire out? I love it. Any last words?
CERI: Come to the webinar. Those are my last words. It’s going to be amazing. I think by the time this airs we’ll probably have something so incredible.
MISTY: All right. I’m excited. Thank you for being here. Thank you for taking the time to come on again and help my people. I hope that you are letting what Ceri’s teaching impact your life because it is impactful. And I really believe that if you take what she’s teaching here and apply it to your life, not just as a business owner, but as a mother this year can be a really fantastic year for you, both in your business and in your motherhood.
If you would like additional support applying these ideas to your motherhood and to your business, then reach out to Ceri privately. You can find her on Instagram at CeriPayneCoaching.
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