As entrepreneurs and creators, it’s exciting to be alive in the idea age.  The infrastructure is in place like never before for good ideas to spread like wildfire.  We have endless opportunities to transform, grow, and connect.  Affordable tools exist to reach your audience more directly than ever before.  Yes, these are wonderful days to be an entrepreneur and venture out on your own.

However, with all of this awesome potential also comes some troubling side effects.  Attention spans are shrinking.  The world is flooded with content, leaving people overwhelmed and making it harder to connect people with your product, service, or art.  It’s the remarkable ideas that really stand out, not the just good ones.

Here are four big things that can kill your creative potential:

1. Perfectionism.

If you’re trying to come up with the perfect idea to reach the perfect audience at the perfect time, then you’re probably going to be too late.  The pursuit of perfection slows you down.  And anything that slows you down is an enemy.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be thoughtful with your actions or take time to plan.  But nowadays, the sooner you get your product or idea to market, the sooner you can get actual data and feedback to see how you might need to adjust.  And you’ll almost always need to adjust.  The trouble with being a perfectionist is that it keeps you living in just the conceptual realm; perfectionism is an enemy of action.  A good decision made quickly is often better than a perfect decision that takes forever to make.  I’ve long struggled with wanting to be perfect right out of the gate and I’ve gotten discouraged when I’ve realized that perfection is just too far out of reach.  But perfection doesn’t necessarily equal success.

A Solution to Perfectionism: Stop tweaking, refining, and editing to death, and don’t hold yourself to such impossible standards of excellence that you never do anything; expect a lot of yourself, but stop expecting perfection.

2. Indecisiveness. 

It takes hard work, time, devotion, dedication, and love to create a meaningful product or service.  This realization can make you only want to spend your time on something of great value to the world or the people you want to help.  With the many ideas stirring in your mind and a limited amount of time to devote to bringing them to life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and reach a state of analysis paralysis.  It might be that you’re waiting for the perfect idea to come to you or that you’re equally excited about several different ideas that each would take lots of time to complete.  But the bottom line is this: you have to decide.  If you don’t decide, nothing will happen.  You’ll be more likely to spend your time living in reactive mode instead of proactive mode, and you’ll be more susceptible to filling your time with low-level activities that really just serve as ways to avoid making the big decisions.

A Solution to Indecisiveness: Make the best possible decision that you can right now on the big questions in your life of (a) how will you spend your time and (b) how will you make your living.  Adjust as you go along.

3. Fear of Failure.

Look, you’re probably going to fail along the way.  You might fail a lot.  It’s not that you aren’t wonderful, cool, smart, and awesome.  It’s just that almost everyone who’s created something in the world has racked up failures.  Dr. Seuss was rejected by more than 20 publishers.  Charles Kettering said, “An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in.  He treats his failures simply as practice shots.” Failing isn’t a big deal; all that matters is that you keep getting up each time you fail.

A Solution to the Fear of Failure: Keep failure in its proper place. Don’t worry too much about failing; just stay focused on getting back up whenever you fail and you’ll be fine.

4. Failure to Finish.

Nearly every creative person I know – entrepreneurs and artists alike – struggle with finishing.  We would all benefit from doing more shipping in our lives, as outlined by Seth Godin in Linchpin.  (If you haven’t read it yet, please stop what you’re doing, get a copy, and clear your calendar so that you can read it cover to cover.)  There is so much competing for our time and attention.  For the creative, entrepreneurial spirit, it almost always sounds more fun to turn our attention to starting something new, rather than trudging on through the dull and the monotonous tasks that often come with finishing something.  How many half-completed projects do you have on your plate right now?  Be honest!

A Solution: Spend some time at your keyboard or with a notebook compiling a list of anything – big or small – in your life that’s unfinished.  Then, make your way through the list by setting aside time in your schedule devoted purely to finishing them, one by one.  (And by the way, if you don’t have it in you to finish it yourself, then it’s okay to find someone who can help you finish.) 

So, if you have some projects that you just haven’t been able to finish (or start), I hope this will help.  Commit to a project and do the best you can with it.  Complete it and get it out into the world, so that you can get feedback.  Know that you can fall back, tweak, and re-launch, if necessary.

Do you have a project that you just can’t seem to finish?  Are you allowing perfectionism or indecisiveness to hold you back?  Please share in the comments below so we can support you to get it done and ship!