Perfectionism! The biggest career blocker ever

I was shocked.

Perfectionism was completely crippling his daughter’s career!

A very good friend of mine, a fellow expert, author and speaker (let’s call him Stew), recently asked me if I would meet his young daughter, Alice, who’s just graduated.

She’s an amazing performance artist; she dances, she’s creative, brilliant at acting and singing, and she’s keen to start her career. The problem is. She’s blocking herself. Stew asked me to share my own experience of getting into the “Meed-ya” (the media darling, TV, radio, the BBC) after I left college.

Many people are put off before they even start because of its competitive nature. I wasn’t. But I spent years working for little or no money to get my break!

It got me thinking about my daughter, Mirabelle, who loves art but prefers to be backstage rather than centre stage. I know she can be shy about putting herself out there. She’s got a few years to go until she’s ready to go full steam ahead, so I hope she takes my advice!

I love sharing my tips and experience with graduates. I hate wasted talent. If I can help, I will.

So, I meet Stew and his daughter, Alice, in London, shocked by what I hear.

Alice shares all these fantastic projects she’s worked on at college and all the tremendous performances she’s won prizes for at such a young age. Alice is awesome.

She tells me about the videos she’d love to make in the future and the dances she’s already choreographing. She can act, sing, dance – she’s a triple threat.

She tells me …

“I’ve got eight projects I could start, but they’re NOT going to be good enough (I’m too young and inexperienced), so I’m NOT going to create them seriously. I’m waiting for a break.”

“Wow,” I think, that is perfectly understandable. However, it’s an example of perfectionism taking over and crippling her career.

TIP – If you don’t think your “work” isn’t going to be good enough…my advice?

Do it anyway.

Remember the Susan Jeffers book? “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Alice tells me she’s “waiting for a break. She’s waiting for a good/useful contact in the industry to help get her an agent or for someone to spot her and cast her in something professional.”

I can also understand why you’d think you need someone with power and industry knowledge to help you … however.

My Advice?


Whatever you do, don’t wait to “BE PICKED” by someone else.

I say to Alice, “please, go ahead, get started with your projects, or shadow someone for nothing… and throw yourself into it.”

You may have heard my many war stories of getting into the BBC – I was a work experience assistant on “Between the Lines,” the drama with Neil Person (you know, the purvey boss in Bridget Jones’s diary?). I was on set from 6 am to 7 pm 6 days a week, and I wasn’t even being paid.

I loved it!

However, looking back, I wish I’d also pursued more of my projects. (I once directed a play at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington, South London, called “Trapped in a Polythene Bag!”. Hmm, yes, I know!)

I also clocked up 100s of celebrity interviews for Virgin Radio (like Lenny Kravitz) when I was being paid one sandwich per day!

My brother used to say (in a caring way), “What are you doing that for? You’re not even earning any money?”

Ok, I did work a lot for nothing – however.

I learnt EVERYTHING I possibly could by being in the right place at the right time.

By the way, I worked three other jobs in the evenings and weekends to pay for my non-paid experience!

My advice again?

Go ahead, give yourself permission to dive in.

If you want to get into the media or any profession for that matter. Just start. Just do it.

I say to Alice, “do it for free, do it for yourself, do it with friends, start your own YouTube channel, film yourself, write a script (yes, even if it’s crap).”

So, I set Alice a challenge. I ask her to pick 1 of her eight possible projects and DO IT, and DO It BADLY, make an absolute rubbish video with terrible choreography and LEARN from failure.

My advice to her and you – STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT!

Be 80% Perfect and give it a go. You need to invest time and energy in YOURSELF. Don’t leave your career up to someone else. Don’t wait to “be picked”.

It’s YOUR responsibility to move forward in your career and if that means you put on a terrible play or write a bad email to your boss – DO IT. DO IT TODAY!

I remind Alice, “you can buy cheap lights and cameras, blag a performance space for free. DO IT, and don’t let perfectionism force you into crippling procrastination.”

Yes, all industries are hard to break into. That’s the harsh truth.

You’ve got to be willing to try and fail. And this isn’t exclusive to the ‘media’ industry.

Don’t squander it and wait to be seen if you have talent. How is anyone going to see you if you’re not ACTIVE?

Tell yourself, tell your daughter (and I will tell mine). Take Action! Don’t be perfect. Give yourself permission to fail.

It’s ok to fail. As they say in silicon valley, “fail fast, learn, and move on!”

So, treat yourself, your daughter or the young women (& men) in your life by gifting them a membership to my 80% Perfect Club – designed to help young and old people, like Alice, make progress rather than block themselves before they’ve tried.

Here’s 3 months free trial membership to the brand new 80% Perfect Club! (it’s a fun and affordable confidence coaching program with tons of amazing resources, exercises and nudges to help you move past perfectionism syndrome)

Click here and fill out the billing info for £0.00. You save £10 a month. And you can unsubscribe any time!

Guest Author: Esther Stanhope

If you want to chat about gift membership or multiple memberships for your team – give me a shout, I’d love to help