“The best is the enemy of the good.” These powerful words from Voltaire are one of the most important things we’ll ever learn about growing a small business.
In yesterday’s Big on Small podcast, Barn Sanctuary’s Executive Director, Kelly Holt, shared some powerful truth about our obsession with perfection in business and as individuals. Having played a key role in their rocketship growth these past four years as a farm animal rescue team, leading to their own show on Animal Planet — Saved by the Barn — Kelly definitely knows a thing or two about stress.
How not to lose yourself or your small business in the quest for perfection, from 4 leaders who know.
In her chat with podcast hosts, Karolyn Hart and Samantha Castro, Kelly got real about the impact that advocacy has had on her own life —growing quickly while in the spotlight of a hit television show.
“The stress that we put on ourselves to be the perfect 'whatever we're at that moment', it really doesn't make for valuable conversations; it doesn't make for good human connections; it doesn't make for good leadership. It creates a problem where there doesn’t need to be one when we strive to be perfect instead of honest and good. I think it’s just the wrong value to put at the forefront if you’re trying to do something powerful, if you’re trying to make a positive impact.”
She went on to share the lessons she’s learned about personal agency and the need to separate your identity from that of the business, something that can be a tremendous challenge for most entrepreneurs. The very nature of a startup is to birth something essential, something that is often tied to a personal passion and a part of who you are at the core. This can be excruciating for small business owners who face the potential loss of what they’ve poured their blood, sweat and tears into building, only to see it sliding backwards during the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.
Separating the two — who you are as a person from who the business is — is a key to survival, and it depends on learning to set boundaries to ensure the growth and sustainability of each.
Here are 3 more antidotes to the quest for perfection, the death of creativity and personal agency in small business.
1. Seth Godin on how abandoning perfection unleashes us in business.
There have been plenty of wise people like Kelly who have weighed in on the necessity and value of this. Seth Godin’s mini-manifesto on Abandoning Perfection was a bite-sized reminder of how the quest for perfect kills progress and innovation:
“Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important). You're not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that's what the world wants from you.”
2. Bryan Zanisnik on how Sweden’s separation of work and self empowers business.
Someone else who takes a critical look at the tangled relationship between personal agency and the ways that perfection stifles work is artist Bryan Zanisnik, who used to equate suffering with success. The “starving artist” stereotype is based on the assumption that profit is the necessary enemy of creativity. Brian dislodged himself from the epicentre of that disconnect in his own practice, moving from New York to Stockholm, Sweden to address that head-on:
“I was really drawn to this aspect of Sweden where one’s career wasn’t so closely tied to one’s identity,” he tells Art21, admitting that he found relief in the separation of his work and selfhood. Though he has since returned to New York, now living between the two cities, Zanisnik has managed to find a happy medium. “Do we make our lives more difficult than they have to be?” he asks. In doing work that is joyful, he says, “there’s a stillness… maybe a relaxed mental stillness there too.”
He unpacks the very specific ways the Swedish diffuse this in the short film Bryan Zanisnik’s Big Pivot at the 4:00 - 5:30 minute timeline.
Pro Tip: For a simple tactic to put this to work in your own practice, take a peek at the tip I offer in my short article: “The one word that can turn networking from an exploit to an Adventure” on LinkedIn.
3. Dr. Brené Brown on how setting boundaries helps us grow our businesses and ourselves.
Yet another catalytic ambassador of personal agency is research professor Dr. Brené Brown, whose professional career has been built around unpacking the story that data tells about our complicated sense of self. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, she explores the critical nature of boundaries in wellness and success. Knowing it takes courage, she reassures: “Worthiness has no prerequisites.” Whether personally or in business, enough if enough.
Setting boundaries not only protects our wellness as people; it ensures the integrity of our business’ vision and mission.
This 5-minute excerpt from Brené’s talk on PBS is not only a great endcap to this exploration but the perfect jumping-off point for many others. As small business owners, we often are what we do. Learning to untangle that and let go of the need to get everything exactly right empowers us. It allows us to make bold choices and possibly pivot to brave and creative new opportunities that might be the very thing that helps us grow our small business, but also ourselves.
Looking for more small business help?
Do you have a great BIG dream? The one that captures your heart and imagination but you’re not sure where to start? Are you willing to leave everything to make it happen? From the warmth and order of the Austin tech startup scenes to frigid Michigan winters rescuing animals, get ready for your heart to be moooved by Kelly Holt of Animal Planet’s Saved by the Barn.
Our second Big on Small episode is definitely close to home, or should we say the barn? Kelly’s journey to leading a rapidly growing farm animal rescue started in the most unlikely of places - magazine publishing that ultimately focused on the tech startup world and even led to her working with InspireHUB.
Out of a world hyper-focused on perfection, Kelly shares how embracing ANTI-Perfectionism led her to find her own freedom and success. The same principles that she uses in helping to rescue and care for animals are found in building a successful organization. From creating healthy boundaries around understanding the clear divide between identity and our work to practising kindness over failures, whether it’s you or your team, this episode will definitely get you ‘moo-tivated’! Listen in ...
Today we launched a brand new podcast for small business with the help of a very special guest, Grammy award-winning music producer, Devo Harris (Springsteen).
Big on Small, The Official Small Business Podcast, explores the big ideas that are helping small organizations survive and thrive.
Hosts Karolyn Hart and Samantha Castro interview the inspiring people who are running small businesses, agencies, towns, charities, schools and teams. Here's why we're so excited about sharing our first episode with you!
Think you don’t have the skills necessary to chase your dream? Think again. Imagine a Grammy award-winning producer behind the biggest names on earth….who doesn’t play an instrument. Get ready to be inspired by Devo Harris (Springsteen).