Progress before perfection

Small footsteps keep us moving forward

Fear is a powerful thing: Fear that we will fail. Fear that someone will judge us unfairly.

Fear holds us back. Stepping off the ledge and embracing the concept of sustainable meetings and events can be really scary. Where to begin? What do we do first? How do we convince our stakeholders, our clients, our staff? Are we doing it right?
This then begs the question: What is the worst that could happen?

During the opening keynote of the 2013 GMIC Sustainable Meetings Conference held April 7-10 in Chicago, Eric Ryan, co-founder of method® environmentally friendly cleaning products, reminded us of the phrase “progress before perfection.”

Keep moving forward, embrace your mistakes, learn from failure, but keep making progress! The mantra within the method® organization is “prototype, prototype, prototype” – progress before perfection.

Such a powerful statement. Such a powerful business model.

I was reminded of some of the (many) failures that I have experienced in my lifetime and how I have learned a valuable lesson each and every time. These failures have shaped who I am today.

Failing forward

And you know what? I still experience failure, and that’s okay. It simply means I am trying. If we don’t make mistakes, if we do not fail, we cannot improve. It is as simple as that.

Progress is defined as advancing toward a goal, showing steady improvement. Perfection can be interpreted as somehow elitist and unattainable and as a result, it naturally promotes fear within.

No one is perfect, and I do not want to be perfect at sustainable meeting planning. Do you? Perfection means that I have abandoned learning and growing. Who wants that?

Think about this: When an Olympic athlete achieves perfect scores, they do not stop training. I guess it really is about the journey, and not the destination.

Perfect is boring. Perfect is lonely.

I would much rather join forces with a group that is “progressing” – taking small, thoughtful steps towards sustainability without denying themselves the opportunity to try new things.

Supportive community

For many, the Green Meeting Industry Council community is that group. Supportive and knowledgeable, they embrace failure as an important learning tool. They also use strategies such as case studies, sharing best practices and sharing experiences.

At the 2013 GMIC conference, attendees had an opportunity to hear from industry leaders – folks who have tested the water time and time again and are willing to share the good, the bad and the “whoopsy daisy.”

They remind us that even when we do not achieve our projected target or goal, even when the outcome can be perceived by some as “less than perfect,” it is critical that we still measure it and not discount that data. All of the data is important to the bigger picture and can be used as we move forward. It becomes part of the sustainable meeting roadmap and can be shared with others.

When we make progress, we build our confidence. The more confident, the less fearful we become. We need to remember to celebrate “small wins”.

Progress before perfection is a mindset that can be applied to our personal lives as well as our professional. By embracing the power of “progress,” we give ourselves permission to take chances, try new things, function outside the proverbial box.

During Eric Ryan’s keynote, we heard the words “innovation is the function of culture” and to “do things that scare you.”

There is no innovation without progress. Let’s keep taking those small footsteps.

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