Don’t Be Afraid to Get a C

Don’t Be Afraid to Get a C

Some years ago I was suffering from some fairly extreme anxiety.

One of the ways the anxiety manifested was that I felt like I was being constantly graded.

During every meal I cooked, every parallel-parking job, every audition, every everything, I felt like someone, somewhere, was monitoring my every move and keeping track in a big notebook about how well or, more often, how poorly I was executing my life.


So I decided that if I could not disabuse myself of the idea that I was being graded, then I would just try to get a C — which is the grade you get for showing up and doing the work.

Not doing the work better than everyone else, not doing extra-credit work — just showing up and doing the work.

I was quite pleased with this idea, and I shared it with my sister during one of our almost-daily phone conversations. She agreed that it sounded like a jim-dandy strategy and wished me luck with it.

Then we went on to discuss the real topic of our conversation that day: our father had moved into a new apartment and we wanted to send him a housewarming gift. I said I would take care of it.

A day or two later we were on the phone again and she asked me if I’d sent anything to Dad yet.

“Well, no,” I explained, “because I want to get him something nice but still within our budget, and I was thinking about something for his kitchen although he already has quite a bit of kitchen stuff so maybe there ’s a better idea if we do some sheets or maybe towels, maybe monogrammed, or —”

“Sam!” my sister interrupted. “Get a C — send a plant.”

Ah, the pure ring of truth!

Ten minutes later I had spent less than fifty bucks at an online flower delivery website for a handsome dieffenbachia plant, and the next day my father called both of us to say thank you and to tell us how lucky he felt to have such thoughtful daughters.

Here’s the point: my desire to find the perfect thing for my father was preventing me from finding anything for my father.

My willingness to take the budget-friendly, obvious option (a houseplant) allowed me to do what we really wanted to do to begin with, which was just let our dad know that we loved him and hoped he was happy in his new digs.

There are two more reasons you can afford to get a C.

One, your version of a C is probably everybody else ’s version of an A.

Two, if you get your work out there and then find that it needs to be made more perfect, well, then, you’ll improve it, right?

That’s how you roll.

How is your desire to do the perfect thing getting in the way of your doing anything?

Take The Easy Way Out

Here’s my new mental discipline: for each idea or project, I’m asking myself, “What’s the EASIEST possible way to do this?”

As a natural-born over-complicator, this does not come easily to me. But I have noticed that I sometimes don’t move forward on projects because I have larded on too many extra moving parts.

So my thoughts go, “Oh, I want to build that new web page. But I wanted to put video on it. So I need to shoot the video first. What should I wear in the video? I need some decent new clothes. When am I going to find time to go shopping? Maybe I should wait until next week when my friend Tish and I are having lunch near that cute boutique I like and we can go shopping together…”

And for want of a lunch date, the web page was lost.

If, however, I put the big mental “EASY?” note in my head, my thinking can go something like, “I want to build that new web page. But I really want to add video. Maybe it would be EASIEST to build the page first and then when I get around to shooting the video I can just add it in later.”

It helps me to think of each project/product as being in “beta” – that is, I’m just getting the first version out into the world and I’ll make improvements as needed.

I can hear someone’s ego squealing, “But NO! My project has to be SPECIAL! It’s complicated…it needs to be perfect…I can’t just slapdash something together…I don’t want people judging me on work that’s in BETA for crying out loud!”

Yeah. I feel you. After all, I am the person who, when making chicken soup, starts with a whole chicken. I’m into artisanal everything, too.

But guess what – not everything needs to be a Ukrainian Easter Egg. Defy your perfectionism and jump in already.

And as for people judging you, well, if you’re not putting any work out into the world then you’re not making art, you have a hobby. Which is fine – I love hobbies – they are soul-enriching and delightful.

But if you are an artist, then you must share your work, your story, your point of view with the world and then let the world do with it what they will. Risky, yes. But like the man said, the risky is what makes it great.

So strip it down, take the shortcut, reduce the number of options, edit it, do the “dummy” version, simplify, simplify, simplify and see what happens to your productivity. (And your ego 😉

Let me know, OK?