Hobbies are essential for entrepreneurs. I’m not talking about quasi hobbies that are actually the pursuit of skills applicable to your business. The best types of hobbies for entrepreneurs – especially those of us whose work is cerebral, requiring long hours wedded to a screen – are those that use your hands and have absolutely nothing to do with your work.

But of course, you’ll make it relevant to your work because your mind never stops, even if it’s just writing about how woodworking relates to perfectionism and entrepreneurship.

The frustration of holidays

If the purpose of taking holidays is resting and recuperating from long hours spent marketing, pitching, writing, selling and generally throwing your heart into something that you can all your own, with no certainty that it’ll work, then some holidays suck.

I’ve wasted many holiday days, in Vietnam, Thailand, the US, France, chasing relaxation as my mind speeds up to fill the lazy hours with ideas, ideas and yet more ideas that (mostly) relate to my business.

A good hobby works far better than a holiday because your mind and hands are gainfully employed on something radically different from your business. And so it is that I enrolled in a 10-week woodworking course, which is cheaper than therapy but more expensive than buying a $30 breadboard – the tangible outcome of my 10 weeks. This course is not for the impatient.

woodworking tools

The tools and the worker

The cavernous workshop is filled with some awesome tools – which no doubt make a massive difference on the work. The teacher comes to inspect my work and sometimes takes my tool for re-sharpening, or adjusts the protuberance of the blade to make it stronger or subtler.

But the tool is only as good as the person using it. For the perfectionist entrepreneur, it’s easy to get obsessed about the tools – we may convince ourselves that we simply must investigate Infusionsoft versus Outraport, GetResponse versus ConvertKit, Stripe versus Apple Pay. It’s the tools! The tools that are the problem!

That’s only partially true. If your software and systems are poor or archaic, business will suffer. But far more relevant are the skills of the business owner wielding those tools. Bring your focus to the task and skills and use those to guide your decisions on which tool to use.

Death by a thousand cuts

No one stroke with the tool will be perfect or perfectly enough. It’s the cumulative effects that move your work in the right direction.

In business, entrepreneurs frequently obsess about the One Thing that’s going to bring surefire success. We get fixated on the product, the partnership, the webinar, the video series. One thing is easier to control than All the Things. But one thing is not going to be the sure bet. It’s the cumulative effect of a thousand different strokes that builds your reputation, establishes your brand, increases your profits.

Fear increases the closer you get

As you plane the wood down to the fine lines you’ve carved around, as you spoke the curves towards the shape you’re seeking, as you sand down the edges, the more fear and caution you’ll experience, the more frequently you’ll call over the teacher to inspect your work.

As you move closer towards your important work – the work that most closely reflects your purpose, your personal values and the impact you desperately want to make in the wider world, progress can appear to stall. And your fear increases exponentially.

Sometimes we see this as a sign to stop. We may believe that if something is our deeper purpose, it should be easy. But the opposite is true. Your fear increases because you care far more deeply about this important work. It feels like the work you were born to do.

At these times, it really helps to have an objective outsider, such as a business coach< LINK>, to talk with. You can get too wedded to or emotional about your work, and if this is fuelled self-doubt, indecision, and lack of forward progress, then an outsider’s help is invaluable.


Softly softly catches monkey

As I plane the top of the breadboard down to the parallel level I’ve marked out, I move far more softly.

Accidentally chiseling out a little chunk of wood, using the spoke saw against the wood grain and cleaving a splinter from your corner can set you back weeks. And, being human, working to correct that mistake can get you down.

Of course, some mistakes are inevitable – you’re a learner, after all. But when you’re close to the edge, you need to slow down a little so you won’t overcorrect and create bigger issues. Subtle strokes are needed to creep forward. Just make sure you don’t go so slow that you stop.

In pursuit of perfection

Chasing perfection is not necessarily bad – it means we have high standards and want to do a stellar job. The key question is, does pursuing perfection inspire incremental improvements and rejection of the quick and easy in favour of important, urgent, better work?

Or does pursuing perfection mean we stop ourselves – continually comparing ourselves to other businesses and falling short, stopping ourselves from launching, rejecting compliments and amplifying criticisms?

The devil – like in most of life – is in the detail. As a perfectionist, nothing is ever finished. Everything is a work in progress. We finish the damn breadboard already, we launch, and we expect to continue making progressive, incremental actions forward.

Ready to get over crippling perfectionism and launch already? Blogging for Business and Social Media Savvy courses participants will be learning and DOING (but absolutely no forced reading aloud of your work at the front of the room. Leave that for nightmares.)