In the professional world, there are about a hundred different things that might keep a business person, owner, entrepreneur from being successful. Big dreamers aren’t necessarily also big doers by default — sometimes the “doing” part has to be learned.


Sometimes the root of the issue can come from the three P’s: perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis. If you are holding yourself to unreasonable or unreachable standard, you’re in your own way. This is where the procrastination comes in. You might think, “I will figure out how to make this work, and I’m sure it will be soon. Then I can solve the problem at hand once and for all, and perfectly!” But really, what’s happening is paralysis.

It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to make mistakes, and to try again. This is how we learn, how we innovate! It’s also okay to hold yourself both accountable for your actions (a must), and to hold yourself to a high standard. Just be mindful of whether or not your expectations are completely unreasonable. One good experiment is to think about asking someone else to do what you’ve committed to doing. If you wouldn’t hand it to a treasured coworker, ease up on yourself a little.

Now, if you’re working long hours on a project because you are really into that project, please continue. If you’re reworking the same paragraph in a business deal for the fifteenth time, and the deadline is looming, and that paragraph isn’t a make-or-break-the-deal situation, let it go. It’s good enough!


Excuses are a form of sabotage, too. Excuses say “this is out of my control.” The problem with that is that if something is out of your control in your business, and it “can’t be solved”, the problem is more likely how you’re approaching the situation than it is actually impossible to fix.

Excuses are not the same as explanations. It is good to have thorough knowledge of situations, and a good understanding of how each situation was caused. An explanation is a road map to solutions. An excuse is a pothole that tears the tire off.

Excuses are insidious, too. We learn how to make excuses (for ourselves and for each other) from a very early age: late homework in high school? Your friend misplaced their car keys, then you hit every red light on the way home. Excuses are on the tip of our tongues all the time, and it’s a bit of work to rewire yourself to stop making them.


Doubt is nearly as insidious as excuse making (and they are definitely related.) Look, and don’t ever forget this: doubt is normal. Steve Jobs doubted. The founders of Facebook doubted. The difference between them and people who didn’t succeed is that they didn’t let doubt stop them. They were willing to try, to experiment, to make mistakes and learn from them. They were willing to share their visionary ideas with the world and, like very successful spaghetti on the wall, see what stuck.

Instead of allowing yourself to make excuses about why your idea won’t work, imagine if it did work. What would that success look like? What are the moving parts that make the idea work? What kinds of people, specifically or generally, do you imagine helping to make the idea happen?

Instead of letting perfectionism stop you, allow yourself to experiment. Commit to learning from mistakes, and not just “how not to do that again.” Take it further. Understand what components in the experiment failed. If you launched a new service, but didn’t have enough staff to cover the service, it’s not that the service was bad. Maybe improvements can be made in the training process. Maybe you underestimated the time commitment each staff member would have to commit. As they say, all data is good data. Learn what, how, and why, and apply that knowledge to the next experiment. But for heaven’s sake, do the experiments.

Instead of procrastinating, make some progress. Even if you can’t finish what you’re working on right away, don’t leave it alone entirely. Dive in, and see what kind of excitements you can dig up. They are always there, you just have to be tenacious sometimes more than others to find them.

Instead of paralysis, choose motion. You have big dreams. Work on them! Talk about them with friends, or with colleagues, or with your team. Learn about the possibilities. Dream, doodle, talk, write, experiment. Get out of your own way! There is too much amazing stuff for us to build to waste time.

Smartt Principles: Business Acumen for Great Results is a monthly column by Nicole Smartt, co-owner of Star Staffing (starhr.com), one of the fastest-growing companies in America, according to Inc. magazine. As a business and career advice expert, Smartt has been featured in Forbes, The Washington Post, Fox Business and Wall Street Journal.