233: A Private Conversation: Our Own Perfectionism On The HTYC Team And How We Handle It.


How do you know when your perfectionism is getting in the way of your progress? Or is it what helps you to be successful. Or is it somewhere in between.

A short while back, we released a podcast episode on “perfectionism” and how you might not even know it’s holding you back.

We got great feedback on this episode from many of our listeners. Caroline Adams and I scheduled a follow-up conversation to debrief on the podcast and what we learned from creating a podcast on perfectionism. Ironically we discovered on creating a podcast on perfectionism that our own perfectionist tendencies had reared their ugly head.

This turned into a private conversation about where perfectionism becomes an issue for both of us. We go deep into where it’s caused challenges for our own lives and work… Even when we began this conversation we never intended it to become a podcast. We’re sharing it with you because we also discuss how we each individually handle the perfectionism when it pops up ready to hold us back!

If you haven’t already listened to episode 226, I would listen to that first and then dive into an internal conversation on our team about working with perfectionism rather than against it! Then listen and let us know what you think at hello@happentoyourcareer.com

Want to read the entire episode instead? Read the Transcript below or download it here!  


Caroline Adams 00:03

Is it about one email or is it every email that you're treating that way? And that's one way I see it showing up with people that we work with, you know, when they're still in that job, a lot of them are just working insane hours.

Introduction 00:20

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:38

Welcome to the Happen To Your Career podcast. I'm Scott Anthony Barlow. And this is the show where we share stories of how high achievers find career happiness and meaning. We thought we'd give you a little bit of insight into some of the conversations that we have on our team.

Caroline Adams 01:01

I think that's so interesting, because it's about standards, and especially when you have high standards, where do you draw the line between excellence, and you know, an unattainable sort of excellence.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:14

That's Caroline Adams. She's a coach on our team here at Happen To Your Career. Remember her? You heard her before on episode 223, and then later, on another episode talking about perfectionism. And this conversation that you're going to hear between her and I is actually a debrief after that conversation that we recorded for the podcast about perfectionism. And we found it really interesting that, and ironic, that creating content about perfectionism was difficult, quite frankly, in fact, it caused some of our most interesting perfectionistic tendencies to come out and play. So we actually break that apart. And in doing so, if you listen a little bit later on, you get to hear some of the ways that we work through perfectionism. And we didn't actually intend this to be a podcast episode, when we first started recording it, when we hit the record button, actually, it was just a debrief on the end, and we happened to be recording it. And we realize that, you know what, it could actually probably be pretty beneficial to everybody else. Because within it, we shared with each other some of the really best practices that we use to overcome perfectionism, and also where rares up for each of us. Alright, so hopefully, you can take away a few different things that you can put in your own life. Or try out, find out if you can hold back those perfectionistic tendencies, or rather lean into them and recognize that they're there and be able to do great work and move yourself closer to where and how you want to be living anyways.

Tracy 03:12

I was sort of scattered from a day to day and week to week perspective, like, I didn't look at my week, every week and say, "I know exactly when I'm going to do. This, this and this activity, or have this, this and this meeting."

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:23

This is Tracy. She wanted to build her own business, but found herself stuck.

Tracy 03:28

The business had reached a certain level, but I also had some family issues at a very extent.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:33

You get to hear Tracy's story later on in the episode to learn how she uses coaching to help her finally figure out how to make everything fit.

Tracy 03:40

What you allowed me to do was create the career that I wanted to facilitate the lifestyle that mattered the most to me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:48

In the creation and making of this episode, how much... I guess I went into it, and even some of the elements of perfectionism that reared, like, in progress, in some ways for both me and you. So okay, so what are you thinking about this year? And what took place going into this episode? What was interesting for observation for you, Caroline?

Caroline Adams 04:13

Yeah, it's a great question. Because I had mentioned how, you know, both in prepping for this podcast and in writing a blog post about perfection, those were two times in the recent past that I've been most anxious about anything. I think I have to process a little bit more but I think a lot of it is about getting in my head and then being super aware of what was going on in my head because I knew I was in front of an audience talking about it. And so the pixels we were even talking about in terms of not being in your head and not making it mean anything more, I fell straight away into those. And you know, part of that is the creative process. You want to get stuff right, you want to be very pretty precise. And so you're probably a little bit helpfully critical, if that's a thing, but, constructively, critical because you want to make sure that you're getting your points across. But in really trying to inhabit the space that people are feeling when they deal with perfectionism, going back to that place of the times that I, myself, have struggled with perfectionism, it really... it kind of starts to take hold. So I thought that was really interesting to observe is, like, how do I talk about perfectionism and not worry about getting the talk exactly perfect?

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:39

Oh, I so love the both irony and meta-ness of that.

Caroline Adams 05:46

I just inceptions you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:48

Yeah, you did. Interestingly enough, on this particular one... So here's what I was trying to evaluate. Do I think I was not perfectionistee? Is that it? Or was I really not perfectionistee? I'm making up words now.

Caroline Adams 06:10

Meaning what? Tell me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:11

Meaning, so, like, I've caught myself three times this morning already being perfectionistee, I'm just gonna keep going with this word, that's not really a word. I was writing an email, and it needed to be done at a certain time this morning before our conversation. Otherwise, the next thing wasn't going to get done. And the next thing wasn't going to get done. And honestly, I felt very vehemently that it wasn't good enough, if you will. So I did end up taking more time and weighing something else. And, going back to do that and looking at it, and even thinking about it now, it probably did help some areas, honestly, to get it to a new standard. But most of what I was worried about really just wasn't that big of a deal.

Caroline Adams 07:03

Yeah, I think that's so interesting, because it's about standards, and especially when you have high standards, like you and I do and a lot of our students do, where do you draw the line between excellence, and you know, an unattainable sort of excellence. And there was something you said that was so interesting that I wanted to comment on– oh, the time. And, you know, a lot of gurus recommend timeboxing things, you know, and just, you know, committing yourself to getting that thing done in two hours or an hour or not spending more than 15 minutes on, you know, an email or whatever it is. And it's interesting when I've done that out of necessity, or writing or whatever, usually something creative, at the same time that I value the fact that, "okay, I still did something, isn't it amazing where I could have spent eight hours on this, and I actually got it done in two." And so I can recognize the value and that I do sometimes struggle with well, I know, even if it's incrementally better, you know, maybe it's worth that extra time. And so it really becomes, I mean, you could really overthink it, which I love to do, but it really becomes an interesting concept of– for the amount of time you spend on something, how much better you actually making it and and looking at, you know, the value of time? And you know, is that 5% better than I might be able to get it to in six hours, what is that going to mean for the people that I'm writing for? Like, well, they value that? Well, I value that and now I've lost my six hours that I don't have to spend on writing perhaps another 75% okay blog posts. So it's a really interesting concept and where do you draw the line between something that is excellent, and meets a certain standard versus kind of tipping over into, well, it's never going to be completely done.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:09

Yeah. What is it... the theory of diminishing return? What was that called? Yeah, I think it's that. But...

Caroline Adams 09:18

Which I built a career on...

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:20

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Caroline Adams 09:22

It keeps tweaking around the edges, and I'm into something that's not going anywhere.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:31

But I think, you know, that's kind of a perfect illustration in some ways, because the theory of diminishing returns, I think, is useless without knowing what you're trying to accomplish. Like if you don't know that knowing what's important to you or knowing what what you're trying to accomplish, then you don't know whether you're getting diminishing returns because if it's more important to, I don't know what's..., well, even that email that I was talking about this morning, if it is more important to get that email because that satisfied a bigger goal, and to make that perfect, then really, I also believe, and I've seen lots and lots of evidence that, you know, when you're talking about things like mastery or whatever, then it is important to go that extra area to get it a tiny percent better in some ways. But not, if that doesn't really have the type of impact on the... if that doesn't really mean anything for the larger impact for whatever it is that you're trying to accomplish, whether that be, you know, making the career change, or whether that be, I don't know, in our case, we're trying to reach more people to be able to teach them how this stuff really works. Right? And does that email do anything for that? And I think that becomes the question. So, I think that the theory of diminishing returns has to have the prerequisite of understanding what you really want to achieve, accomplish whatever.

Caroline Adams 11:02

I think that's totally right. And back to the idea of awareness and understand, you know, getting curious about why this is showing up and why you're feeling this way. And so, is it about one email? Or is it every email that you're treating that way? And that's one way I see it showing up with people that we work with, you know, when they're still in that job, a lot of them are just working insane hours, and just exhausted. And just even from my own corporate experience, you know, talk about diminishing returns, like, I remember sitting in front of my computer screen, at the end of a 14 hour day, and I literally could not collect my thoughts. I just might, my brain was just on overdrive. And I would sit there and stare at the blank screen, trying to, like, waiting it out to see if I...

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:48

It's gonna happen. It's gonna happen. Maybe.

Caroline Adams 11:52

Yeah, and it really does. Usually I was like, alright, I'm gonna go home and start it, you know, 5:30 tomorrow morning. But I think a lot of people take that approach. And especially when that approach of diminishing returns kind of throwing their energy away, basically, into something that's not what they want, which is one of the biggest pitfalls, I think, when people are making that career change. They say they want the career change, they start taking steps, but they're still giving 50 plus hours a week to their current job to where they don't want to be, well, that's diminishing returns, you know, make it your job to focus on the thing that you want to get to. So it's interesting, I'm glad you brought up diminishing returns, it's huge.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:35

That'd be fun, what you're talking about in terms of energy, and thinking about energy as a currency in some way or as a resource, as a finite resource, that'd be a fun episode to do, by the way, at some point. And I almost think that in some ways, thinking, although time is, I think, possibly the most valuable resource as a sub component of that, again, depending on what you're trying to accomplish, for me, in a lot of ways, like energy and dividing that specific amount of time is one of the most valuable things I've had to really, really really pay attention to. That has been a massive learning curve over the last six years for me. Then there's like different levels of it, too. Like every time I think I've got, kind of got this nail, then there's a new brand new level and a new dimension to some degree, to get better at that one teeny tiny area.

Caroline Adams 13:38

Yeah, 90% of what I'm doing is thinking about,as I build the business and think about how I spend my time on the business is, where's my energy going? You and I even talked about this when we first started talking about working together, because I'm silly, because I've burned out. So I know what it's like to push that to the limit. And it's so interesting what you say about having time versus having energy. When I went part time in my corporate job, and I had, so I worked at corporate just three days a week. So I technically had two weekdays and two weekend days to start business. So I had anywhere between two and four days that, technically, I had plenty of time to work on my business. I was so exhausted from those three days that I just needed that time to just get back to whole to just to be able to kind of recover from what had happened in corporate. And so I think that's 100% about energy. I had plenty of free time. And I think a lot of people have this, a lot of people complain about not having time. You have the time. You can find 20 minutes a day to do some. But the point is that, if I gave you that 20 minutes right now, you might not be able to connect with it because you're just depleted from whatever else is happening in your life. So I think it would be a fascinating conversation.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:59

Yeah. What is... okay, so I'm curious, what is the number one most challenging area for you around energy right now? And I'll tell you mine, too, here in a second.

Caroline Adams 15:15

Good question. I think it's that I, gosh, you make me choose just one.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:22

I know. I know.

Caroline Adams 15:24

I'm a very passionate person. And I am passionate about certain things. But I can also be passionate about what's in front of me. And I think that's a lot of what was behind why I stayed in certain positions for such a long time in my corporate career, because I would almost like to trick myself, because I was like, oh, once I get into it, this is pretty interesting. But I wouldn't have chosen that thing if you had given me 10 other options. Do you know what I mean? So I think it's about recognizing that passion, recognizing the capability and the energy behind it, and making sure that I'm focusing it on the things that are most re-energizing and fun, you know, reminding myself to have fun, actually, you want to be doing this, we talked about this before. That's the most important thing is, channeling those huge stories of, like, just flow and inspiration and all these cool things that happening, but channeling it into things that I really enjoy. Because I, like you, I think you've said this a couple of places, you have intense focus and so you can focus on one thing, but then other stuff drops out. I'm very much like that. So especially if, you know, it'd be one thing if I were channeling my energy into something that was like so amazing that it you know, I could just live off of it for years, but especially when I'm not putting that passion and energy into the right place, the fact that I'm ignoring other things, it just kind of becomes all consuming.

Tracy 17:01

I had reached a point in my business that I had gotten to largely through sweat equity, just dragging it out, doing the research by myself, figuring it out on my own.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:15

Tracey's business had plateaued and was keeping her from what mattered most to her. When she signed up for coaching with HTYC, she identified who she needed help from.

Tracy 17:26

The business I've reached a certain level, but I also had some family issues– I have a very sick parent. So in my mind, I wanted to create workflows and efficiencies, and extra revenue that would allow me to take the time with that parent that was really meaningful to me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:43

Tracy was able to set up her business for success and give her time with her loved ones.

Tracy 17:49

And I had reached a point where I knew that I wanted some more professional help. And particularly I wanted help from somebody whose life I admired and whose business I admired. Our work together really helped me systematize, you took all the risk away, you took all the fear away. And from that point on, you know, I was really diligent in using our time really well and making sure that we got the most out of it, but so were you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:11

Congratulations to Tracy on creating a business and a life that works for her. If you want to find out how to do exactly the same thing, create a business and build it so that it suits your life and lifestyle, and it also lights you up and gives you purpose at the same time. Well, turns out, we can help. Find out how coaching can help you do that step by step. Go over to happentoyourcareer.com and click on career coaching to apply or you can text MYCOACH, that's MYCOACH to 44222. Pause right now, and we'll send over the application. Just text MYCOACH to 44222.

Tracy 18:49

The fact that I got to spend an incredible guilt free amount of time with a sick and dying parent who's no longer here is priceless.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:01

Okay, so here's mine. I was thinking about this a little bit as you were telling me about yours, too. And I think the biggest challenge for me right now is duplicating the pockets of energy consistently. And what has a tendency to happen, because I've realized that if, one, if I have different levels of energy at times that I don't anticipate, a lot of the times my schedule gets planned months in advance. So like right now we're planning stuff well into the end of 2018 and everything along those lines. So if my energy pockets, that for what I anticipate, are not aligned with getting different pieces done within timelines, then it throws everything else off in a huge, huge way. So the last two days, for example, have been batched recording episodes for many months in advance at this point. And if I come into those conversations not energized, or if I don't get something else done, and we have to reschedule some of those, because it's more important than those podcast episodes, then it has a tendency to have this massive snowball effect. And because we're so far scheduled out in a lot of ways, then it is... sometimes I'll feel it for over a month. So it dovetails back to, how do I... if I need to spend time, if I need to produce a particular result, and let's say for example, I need to write some content, and we need that content to be not just, I don't know, trailer content, but we need it to be very, very good and produce a particular result, or help people in this particular way or whatever else, and I cannot show up with the amount of energy during that time, then I will literally feel the impacts of that for weeks where things get shifted around. And then all of a sudden I'm doing things when it doesn't fit for those different levels of energy, and then that in itself creates a snowball effect, too. That is my biggest challenge is– really making sure that all of the elements, like, what food am I eating, you know, the day before? Am I getting to bed on time? Is there something that pops up, you know, at school that I need to have a conversation about with the kids? Or just all of those elements and then being able to plan for the unexpected, so that it doesn't get... so it doesn't derail everything. That's my biggest challenge right now in the impact of energy.

Caroline Adams 21:59

That's what I was... two follow up questions. So one is, do you schedule downtime now knowing that, you know, this is something you need to watch out for? And do you ever change, like, call an audible and change your schedule? Like when you realize, "oh, gosh, I just do not have the energy for this." Or, "it's too much" do you mix it up? Or do you just kind of let it run its course and then recover after that?

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:22

It depends. There have been times where, you know, I... So what I always try and do and it doesn't always work, sometimes I'm so in the thick of it, where I fail to pull myself out of it for a couple minutes to be able to look at the bigger picture. So there absolutely have been those types of times, which then ends up causing some of that snowball type effect, too, if I fail to do that for, you know, a particular time period. But when I do, then yeah, absolutely. I look at, "Okay, is it going to be more valuable to, I don't know, take a nap or go for a walk?" Or, like, a lot of times, I'll do like five or seven minute workouts, just to be able to get blood flowing or something along those lines, like, I have kettlebells in the next room over there. And we'll go do kettlebell swings or something, or a whole bunch of push ups or burpees or something like that for five minutes. But I don't always do that. Sometimes I convince myself, that's not a good idea. I just don't have time for it. And that's what it feels like in my head, even though it would have been better to call that audible as you said. So when I do, it usually ends up better and can usually avoid it. And sometimes I don't, but I like to be even more proactive and figure out how do I put together the right combination of the puzzle so that, as I show up, then it is the right thing for the right time and the right level of energy and the right type of energy too.

Caroline Adams 23:56

Yeah, I totally get that. I really try to do that too. I think what throws it off is creativity, during that creativity. You know, like the, I will get the inspirations and they usually comment, like, totally the point at which I can't do anything with them, and, or because I've scheduled stuff. Like sometimes I'll find myself making excuses like, "Well, no, this is not your writing time." You know, so, I think that's something I'm still trying to work through, but between the structure of writing at certain times of the day and certain days and just building that habit versus, you know, being open to when those pieces of inspiration comment. I think the other thing, too, that I find hard to do, it was interesting, you're talking about, you know, just doing something for a few minutes. I struggle with that concept. Like once when I would use to motivate myself to go to the gym, I would say, "Okay, just go for 50 minutes." And then, you know, it's an hour and a half or whatever. Never, always knowing that once I got there, I wouldn't leave after 50 minutes or whatever. And, you know, same thing with writing. And I think if I could, so I'm not very good at just doing the thing for 50 minutes, and I think I know that. So I think well, "Caroline, you're just lying to yourself. It's going to be an hour and a half, it's going to be all day." So I just don't start. Whereas especially with the writing, if I would just take the 50 minutes, write down the idea, get the nugget there that I could pick up later, I think it would serve me a lot better. But for some, I think it's that same thing that enables me to focus, kind of works against me in that respect, because I know that I'm going to focus on it if I sit down to do it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:49

I have to minimize a lot of barriers in order to make that stuff work. So like even for[ taking a few minutes, and everything like that, I built a lot of that into my life in really weird ways. Like I wear stretchy jeans, like, that is what I... I know that sounds weird. And I guess I don't really care if it does, because I love them. But you know, I buy the certain brand Express clothing they make, like really stretchy jeans for guys. So, like, it's no big deal. It's not like, well, I'm in my nice clothes, or whatever, and they don't bend that way. So I can just, like, go throw some kettlebells for a couple of minutes or whatever. But it's just weird things like that. I've realized mentally stop me that I've had to, one, recognize, which sometimes is the hardest part. And then two, like, actually do find weird solutions for them in a lot of ways.

Caroline Adams 26:43

Yeah, it's kind of like the opposite. I don't know if you've heard, I think it's Brendon Burchard. He talks about transitions. Have you heard him talk about this?

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:51

I haven't. I know a lot of people that are huge fans of Brendon, and I just... I don't know him. And I'm not really super familiar with his work.

Caroline Adams 26:58

I'm not either, but I've read like 15 pages of his book. So I feel that to be able to talk about it. But at the concept I liked, there's a twist. It's not exactly what you said. But he talks about kind of moving from one activity from another and making sure that you take the time to acknowledge the fact. So I think a really good examples, like, when you're moving from family time to work time or work time to family time. And if you don't kind of stop and tell yourself, "Okay, I'm finishing this and I'm moving into the family", you have the tendency to kind of take those... you take that same energy into what it is or whatever it is that you're doing. That's often, you know, to detrimental results. Yeah. And so what made me think of that was the fact that it's kind of you've ease those transitions, but in a way that works. It's not about, you've made them more fluid, I guess is what I'm trying to say is, like, you're prepared at any time to like, do some kettlebell exercises, or whatever. And so it's less about, you know, "Okay, now I'm doing this. Now, I'm doing this other thing." And it's more about, I can seamlessly kind of move between these different activities anyway. That's what my mind went.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:22

I never heard anybody put it this way. But in my mind, I always think about physics and minimizing friction, like, that's the way it works for me. It's like, how do I minimize the friction of what is causing me not to do something? And how do I remove that out so that, you know, inertia just doesn't get stopped? Or whatever else along those lines. And that's what it always makes me think of, and that's how I relate the concept. It's like, well, what's stopping me? What's producing the drag? What's the, I don't know, whatever analogy. And in a lot of ways, it's things that the small things that irritate me or small things that, I don't know, are causing me to rethink things like just getting rid of those in one capacity or another is I found the biggest challenge.

Caroline Adams 29:09

Yeah, I think about that a lot. Actually, I think at my core, I'm a very lazy person.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:14

Me too. Yeah.

Caroline Adams 29:19

And it's interesting, the word fun has started like, I never would have put fun at the top of my values even probably two years ago. And I think once I finally started stepping into fully embracing, you know, what I wanted to do in my career, and then getting at it and bringing that same like, grinding energy that drove me so much in my corporate career and saying, "I don't want to... you know I like this. This is the thing I want to protect. I don't want to bring that same energy. Like, how do I make this fun?" Is the question I asked myself all the time. And a lot of times, even if it's not fun, just even stopping to ask that question can kind of open some things up and just take a bit of the pressure. But I agree. It's so interesting how I can be derailed, like, how at 11 o'clock, one night, I can be so pumped and ready to get writing the next morning. And by the time the next morning rolls around, you know, five minutes after I get up, I'm already starting to talk myself out of it or losing that momentum. I just find that sort of thing. That we... hang on, you've been awake for five minutes in between. We really wanted to do something. And now when you're dreading it, like it's the worst thing in the world. What the heck happened?

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:38

Hey, I hope you enjoyed that. If you want more behind the scenes at Happen To Your Career, drop us an email and let us know. We've been experimenting with a lot of different types of content lately, because we want to continue to improve so that we can put the most useful and at best possible and even most entertaining things out there for you in the world. So drop us a note at hello@happentoyourcareer.com and let us know if that's something that you enjoyed or if you never want to hear it again. We would absolutely love the feedback. However, we've got so much more coming up for you next week, right here on Happen To Your Career. We have a guest who had an extraordinary journey and even an extraordinarily long journey, but found not only a new role that was an amazing fit for her, but also a brand new side business of her very own.

Michal Balass 31:34

I got to that point. And I didn't want to give it up. But the thing is, is that I didn't want that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:44

That's Michal. And next week, you get to hear her entire amazing story and transformation right here on Happen To Your Career. We'll see you then. Until then, I am out. Adios.

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