Being Good with ‘Good Enough’
If you’ve been to see a behavioral therapist in the last 50 years, chances are you’ve been exposed to the work of Albert Ellis.
But long before his pioneering work in Psychology, Albert Ellis was an awkward college kid, desperate to overcome his social anxiety around the opposite sex.
At some point, young Albert discovered the work of the stoics (before the bros made it ‘cool’) and began to see his fears for what they were: irrational, self-perpetuating and something he had agency over.
But actually overcoming them would require more radical measures.
So Albert gave himself an assignment.
Every day of August 1952, he would visit the Bronx Botanical Gardens, as was his normal routine. Only this month, whenever he saw a woman sitting alone on a park bench, he would sit beside her, start a conversation and if things went well, he’d ask her on a date.
By the end of his experiment, thirty women immediately got up and walked away (sidenote: this might be the most NY thing ever documented 😂).
One-hundred indulged him in conversation.
And one agreed to a date — that she would ultimately be a no-show for.
By most standards, poor Albert was an abysmal failure at getting women to go out with him.
Except his goal wasn’t to get really good at getting dates. It was to get really good at asking for them. And to get over whatever stories he had told himself all those years about what rejection would do to him.
Albert knew that in order to conquer his fear, he had to do more than take confidence classes or practice pick-up lines in front of a mirror. He knew he couldn’t wait until he “felt” perfectly ready. He had to take the plunge, feel the discomfort and prove to himself he could survive it.
One-hundred plus conversations and 0 dates later, Albert had succeeded just by showing up and facing down his fears. And eventually it did score him some actual dates.
My own irrational fears have given me all kinds of seemingly rational reasons not to show up, to show my work — or truthfully show any part of myself that I deem ‘unready’.
And while I’ve written enough words to fill an anthology (or 6), these fears have blocked me from publishing a single blog post in almost a year.
So when I agreed to a weekly writing challenge with my friend Daisy Quaker, I knew I would need an Albert Ellis-style intervention if I had any hopes of breaking the spell.
This challenge would have to be as much about publishing as it was about writing.
I’d already spent hundreds of hours on writing and editing and re-framing and starting over. Now I had to practice getting comfortable with good enough. And releasing all my expectations about what the process ‘should’ feel like, what ‘should’ happen as a result and what any of it suggested about my worth.
Just like Albert’s commitment to speak to EVERY woman who sat down on a bench, I had to be unwavering in my commitment to post EVERY week, even if there were plenty of reasons not to.
Easier said than done.
For the first week of the challenge, I wrestled my way through a post about Technology’s Impact on Marketing. Not the post I intended to write, but the post I eventually surrendered to.
It was not my best work. And if it weren’t for this challenge, I would have never deemed it “publishing-worthy”. But through clenched teeth, I hit the publish button and met my goal for the week.
Since post time, it’s garnered one comment and one clap — both from Daisy (thank you girl 😂). Along with one rejection from the publication I submitted it to. Every morning, I check to see if maybe my Medium app notifications have malfunctioned (they have not).
But that wasn’t the point of this exercise. My charge was to write, finish and post 300 words, once a week. Not to get reactions or nurture leads. Not to get featured or go viral. Not to achieve perfection.
Just write, finish, post and repeat. And give myself permission for that to be good enough.
“Unfinished projects can’t compound.” — James Clear