beaver dam

The Enemy of the Good – Getting Out of Your Own Way

I love sayings and metaphors. Those who are regular readers of this blog know that from previous posts. I so admire and respect people who just have a “way” of phrasing words to make concepts understandable, even those that are profound and important.

I especially like it when I think they are right 🙂

One of the sayings I’ve cited in previous posts has been one that’s most often credited to Voltaire:

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

I’m going to show you how this saying fits advocacy, and how it can have a profound effect on your practice.

What does Voltaire’s saying mean?

It means that sometimes we get so bogged down in details, that we never reach our goals. Our pursuit of perfection stands in the way of accomplishment. In the case of starting a business, it also means that we don’t allow the marketplace to help us improve our work.

In other words, we are so focused on doing things perfectly ourselves that we fail to realize that just getting started was the goal – and that we can improve over time.

This topic arose a few weeks ago when I heard from an APHA member, Dorothy (not her real name), who has already worked with a few clients, and who has already made a splash within her new profession of advocacy. Dorothy emailed me a few questions, and after I finished my replies, I asked her why she hasn’t yet listed herself in the AdvoConnection Directory.

Her reply was a classic “failure to launch” reply. Dorothy reported,

“I have all the back-end stuff done like website and contracts, but I am concerned about making sure all the infrastructure is in place before making a push to the market of where the clients are.”

Channeling Voltaire

My reply to Dorothy was “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Clearly she had gotten so bogged down in the details of her launch that she could possibly get in the way of her own success.

That reply was just the kick in the backside Dorothy needed! She is now listed in the directory and has already received many inquiries about her services. She’s even been quoted in the media! Her questions have morphed from her originals about getting started, to how she can begin to hone her target audience. That’s a question asked by someone who is focused on success. I’m proud of her!

Of course, this begs the question – how do you know when you’re ready to launch, even if you aren’t quite ready? Where is that line?

patient advocate at her computer

To me, that answer is a line you need to determine yourself. I can give you some questions to ask yourself to guide you – but it’s a determination for YOU to make.

Ask yourself (and give yourself honest answers!):

  • Do I know how to help someone get what they need from the healthcare system?
  • Have I done it before, even if it wasn’t through my own business? Or am I willing to “hustle” even if I don’t know all the resources?
  • Do I have the pieces in place to cover my own business backside – my pricing, a bank account, a contract, and liability insurance?
  • Do I have the ability to ask for (conversation) and collect the money (task) a client should fairly compensate me?
  • Do I know my limits, so that if I am asked to do something I’m not adept at, I can seek out the right person to help?

If you have all those pieces in place, then go ahead and give it a try – get launched! Or grow! Break that dam – launch or expand your business! As you get started, you’ll get regular input from clients and prospective clients to help you to improve continually – as you approach “perfect.”

(BTW – this introduces another important start-up business approach, called the MVP – having nothing to do with valuable people! Learn more about MVP with PracticeUP! TIPS.)

While Dorothy was fooling around with trying to achieve perfection, patients needed her – and didn’t have access to her. Now she’s out there, serving clients, building and succeeding in business.

Patients need YOU, too.

Don’t allow the pursuit of perfection to get in your way, or stand between you and the patients who need your help. Get started – even if you aren’t yet perfect!


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