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a blog by Chris Barrow

Perfection paralysis and the shoe shine girl

Yesterday lunchtime I visited with the shoe shine girl beneath the Royal York Hotel. Inevitably, she asked “what do you do for a living?” “I run a business school for dentists in the UK and I’m here working with other potential business school owners on how to build their schools.” “Wow”, she responded, “We could really use someone like you in my real occupation.” “Which is?” “I am an author and artist but I never seem to make any money at it – that’s why I’m shining shoes.” “And why don’t you make any money?” “Because I never sell anything.” “And why don’t you sell anything?” “Because I never feel my work is finished.” Ah ha! Perfection paralysis – a well-known phenomenon, even for dentists and coaches – and now here’s a serial-paralysist, an artist. “May I offer you some advice?” I asked, cautiously (after all, these are expensive shoes she’s bashing about). “If I saw your work, would I know it wasn’t finished?” “No.” “And if I liked what I saw and bought it – would it matter that I didn’t know finished?” “Well I guess not.” “Well then let me choose and let your customers choose – they will soon tell you if they don’t like the product.” “What’s your name?” She asked. “Chris Barrow – why do you ask?” “Have you written a book that explains this?” “Well I have for dentists.” “OK – well I just want to remember your name so that when I see it in a book-shop some day I will remember that I shined your shoes.” “OK – thanks – have a good day.” “You too.” How many of us have “unfinished projects” that our customers would love to buy (and benefit from) just as they are right now?

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