One of my mottoes in life is: ‘Perfect is the enemy of done’.
I spent 15 years working in PR agencies, with a big list of clients wanting things done. It became apparent to me that most of them couldn’t tell the difference between ‘pretty great’ and ‘absolutely perfect’ work. And in fact, in terms of outcomes, there was no real benefit to being perfect.
That’s because 99% of the population can’t tell the difference between a well-crafted sentence and a perfectly-crafted sentence. Spending time on the latter is like feeding fruit salad to pigs (as my late grandmother would say).
Any perfectionist tendencies I had were laid to rest a long time ago. And what I’ve observed is that perfectionism is rarely a positive trait, because it comes from a place of fear.
I recently listened to a lecture on this: ‘Why perfectionism is bad for you’, by Dr Thomas Curran. He explains that “it comes from this profound desire to solve and repair defects that we believe that we have. We go through the world needing to be approved of, which leads us to set excessively high standards – because the only way we can guarantee approval is if we excel”.
The other thing that perfectionism does is lead to paralysis. We decide that if we can’t be perfect then we might as well not try at all. Or, as Dr Curran says, “Because the standards set are too high in the first place, we struggle to meet them.”
What does this have to do with money? Well, everything, I reckon.
How fear gets in the way
In my experience, a lot of people do nothing about their finances because they don’t feel good enough, smart enough or knowledgeable enough to take action.
“Well I don’t understand the inner workings of the sharemarket, so I won’t invest.”
“Superannuation is so confusing, I’ll just leave it til later when I have worked it all out.”
“I can’t stick to a budget when I make one, so I’ll just keep spending all my money.”
“I feel like I should be investing, but I don’t know where to start, so I’ll just keep it in the bank.”
If you’ve ever said any of these things, or a variation of them, then you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably in the majority.
I get it, I really do. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve talked myself out of action because I think ‘ah, I’m not good enough’.
(Like, I only ever write about half the blog posts I come up with because I decide nobody will care about the topic. But as my beautiful friend Trenna said to me last week, some people do want to hear what I have to say, and so here I am.)
Just pick one thing
I am a big fan of the elephant-eating approach to life. (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”). Taking a lot of small actions not only creates momentum, it makes things more manageable.
I actually cover this in a series of posts from a while back:
So I encourage you to check them out if you want some step by step instructions. But perhaps the thing you want to get done is a specific goal. For example: I want to start investing in the sharemarket.
There are indeed so many ways you can do that, so the first step is accepting the very liberating fact that there’s more than one right way to do it.
The gift of choice
Yep, there is no perfect, rolled-in-gold, stress-free, returns-guaranteed way to invest in the market. For some people, that’s a scary thought. But it’s actually good news, because it means you have choices.
So, step 2 might be looking into what those choices are – the research stage. After some googling and podcast-listening and chatting to friends, you’ll come up with a shortlist of ways to get started. They would look something like this:
- Invest directly in specific companies, on the ASX, through a broker (e.g. Selfwealth, Commsec or Superhero)
- Buy Exchange Traded Funds that bundle a lot of shares together, and buy them on the ASX (again, through a broker)
- Buy a managed fund directly with an investment manager (where you’ll fill in a form and buy units in the fund)
- Invest in ETFs through an app that does it for you, like Raiz or Commsec Pocket
- Use a roboadviser like Stockspot or Six Park, which will create and manage a portfolio suited to your needs
- Sign up with a human Financial Adviser who will look at your whole financial picture and set up investments for you
Now this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’ve also written more detail here: The ultimate ‘get started’ guide to investing (and stuff)
The key is, once you have the options in front of you, it’s easier to decide which one you prefer. Step 2 is done, and Step 3 is then taking action.
Face up to your perfectionism
Which is the part where we often fall down. We have all the info, but we have to make a decision. And then we have so much info that we get analysis paralysis.
And this is where I want you to face your perfectionism head-on. Are you not taking action because you’re scared of getting it wrong? If the answer is yes, that’s fine. You are a human. And if you’re a woman, you’ve been raised in a world that tells you money and business and investing is for men in suits.
But now you’ve recognised this, it’s time to act. If you really feel nervous, just start small! The Raiz and Pocket options have a really small minimum investment – they are like a gateway drug to investing (but, you know, a good drug).
It’s common for people to see Option 1 as the only way to invest in shares. And because they don’t know the first thing about stockpicking, they shy away from it. (I actually know a lot about stockpicking, which is why I don’t do it – I know how hard it is).
But the beautiful thing is that there is more than one way to succeed in any given task. I’ve used investing here, but it could be any number of finance-related things on your to-do list. And if you have been putting off whatever it is, then this is the sign you need to get cracking.
Go out there and get it girl!