EPISODE #148: Perfectionism – The Enemy of ‘Good Enough’

Hello my friends and fellow Guardians, Pat Kilchermann here, founder of the Concealed Carry University. I want to reach out and welcome all the listeners who are not part of our CCU Alumni. When I started doing these broadcasts four years ago now, it was simply a means for me to talk to and get email replies from our existing CCU alumni, our students who had come to me through some of our education or training material. But now, it seems that quite a large pool of listeners has come straight to this broadcast! That’s wonderful, and I welcome you here.

I also want to say that my prayers have been with those of you who are down in the south east, whose lives have been turned upside down from Hurricane Florence and all the flooding that storm has caused and is continuing to cause. Alright.

This week, I actually want to take a short break from our conversation on pre-positioning, because I have what may be an important message. And that is: if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing…. poorly. And if it’s REALLY important, then it’s worth doing REALLY poorly.

You may not need this broadcast or this message at all. But let me ask you:

Do you ever feel afraid of failure? Do you ever feel paralyzed into inaction by this kind of fear?

Or do you ever feel robbed of peace or robbed of contentment? Do you find that you are your own worst critic in life, rather than your biggest cheerleader? Is the idea of being a cheerleader for yourself completely laughable? Do you feel that you can’t begin with something or take action on something or that you can’t be happy or can’t feel adequate until everything is just so? Until you hit your goals and are the person you plan to be, or believe you can be? Do you feel that your life, or certain areas of your life, are just big series of disappointments, one after the other?

If any of these are true, then it’s possible that you’re a perfectionist. I don’t mean in the cute job interview way, where we believe our biggest “flaws” are that we work too hard or care too much. I mean, really: you may have a serious problem that’s holding you back in big ways in life – or just as bad (if not worse), one that’s really hurting the people around you. Perfectionism!

This problem came to mind recently when I encountered someone who was discontent with their carry gun. They wanted a “Cadillac,” but they couldn’t afford one. So, they were going to go with a brand new Kel-Tec, but I steered them, for a little less money, toward a used, retired police GLOCK. I explained that it was more than enough, as far as tools go. It’s going to go “bang” when you press the trigger, which is 95% of the job description of a defensive carry gun. I explained that the rest is “on them, and inside them, there for them to develop and pull out of themselves.” But, I could tell he was seeing that pistol through some kind of negative lens, and I could tell he would never be proud of it; could never trust it; could never love it enough to bond and grow to that point of effectiveness.

It reminded me of another attitude I’ve encountered, with people’s training. Rather than reaching that point of responsible and safe competency and beginning to carry with confidence and develop themselves where and when they can, some people who carry concealed never feel that they’re ready until they’ve received all the training they want. Do you see what I mean? Rather than hitting the ground running, with pride and confidence but with a healthy awareness that they will be a lot better in five years provided they stick to a good regimen of self-investment and development, people who suffer from perfectionism in this way will feel laced with doubt and discontent and feelings of unpreparedness and inadequacy.

This problem is dangerous to the mind, and it’s a bummer to be around, because everyone around certainly feels it. They feel the stress, the anxiety, and ultimately the depression it causes. But, it’s a hard problem to help someone sort out! And yet, it can be bad. Perfectionists often push themselves too hard, or give up completely if they find that their ideal is unobtainable or out of reach. In the same way, they can push their friends, their spouse, or their children too hard, when the perfectionist’s own unrealistic, unfair, selfish, and destructive expectations are expanded and applied to those around them. For the people in the lives of the perfectionist, it’s hard to argue against these high standards and expectations, because the standards of the perfectionist are indeed usually GOOD ones in and of themselves.

But here’s the thing:

Ultimately, perfectionism is a losing mindset because this kind of attitude destroys everything that it sets out to achieve. So, it’s not just that it’s out of balance or inefficient, but the reality is that it’s ultimately quite destructive. It destroys any hopes of true excellence. And like setting your goal on the horizon rather than an actual point, a perfectionist attitude has no end, offers no relief. So, the perfectionist ultimately becomes discouraged, despairs, and suffers from anxiety or depression, or both.

In concealed carry, obsessions of this kind, this perfectionist attitude, either discourages the user or it can get them killed. People who obsess over guns and gear or who obsess over shaving another tenth of a second from their already extremely fast draw stroke or reload time, rarely devote time and attention to mindset or skill development in other areas – to the point where, ultimately, they have massive, glaring short-comings in areas that are – really – much more important.

We’ve talked about this a lot – this concept of balance, and the reality that if we grow one of our three pillars of self-defense out of proportion to the others, we’re not actually increasing our effectiveness or our abilities to survive a situation. For example, we’re not doing ourselves any favors if we keep working that draw stroke that is already fast, but if we haven’t studied body language.

I think you know what I mean, and you’re probably far ahead of me on this.

Okay, now it’s easy for attacking perfectionism to creep into the realm of attacking excellence, and I don’t want to do that. I like to encourage people to pursue excellence. But there’s a simple test you can do, and it really just involves asking yourself some questions.

If you’re pursuing excellence, you’re an inspiration to people. You know you’re good enough, but you keep going because you believe it makes you a better person and because it’s inspiring and encouraging to those around you.

So, are you encouraging others? Are you inspiring others? Are you happy? Are you able to identify when you’re good enough, and can you say that out loud when it’s true? Examine all areas of your life. If you can say all that, you’re probably not a perfectionist and you’re in good shape.

I also like to use these strategies to seek and destroy any hints at perfectionism within myself. Here’s what I say:

First, nobody is perfect. We all have glaring blind spots. We’ve all let people down. We’ve all let ourselves down. That’s fine! But we must be able to admit it and make peace with it.

Second, perfection isn’t possible, not here on earth. The laws of nature and physics guarantee that nothing, short of ideas, can ever be perfect. Hopefully RARELY, but no matter what: our guns will let us down. Our training will let us down. Our spouses and family will let us down. Our cars and trucks and houses and investments and jobs and bosses and employees will let us down. It’s guaranteed. And, we will let others down. That’s life as a human being on planet earth.

Third, I like to say: ready, fire, aim. I like this philosophy of not only being okay with failure or mediocrity, but planning and preparing for it, and even working it into my plans. If I were a perfectionist, I’d never have developed any material here at CCU. Especially my earlier work, when I look back at my set design, my video angles, my lighting, my abilities as a speaker and presenter, and even the clothes I wear. A lot of that stuff makes me cringe in retrospect, but you know what? Good enough is good enough. When you have an important message, you just have to get it out there. And the more important it is, the faster you must act.

And that ties into the title of this broadcast: that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly. Hands down, speed of execution is the sole reason why I’m still in business and still educating. A pre-requisite of that is an acceptance of and comfort with failure. Because when you move fast, that’s what happens. Just like with moving and shooting practice: you keep moving and shooting until you find that point where you’re too sloppy, and then you back off and work on focus.

That’s life, and I hope this broadcast has been helpful. Stay safe!

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