Progress Through Iteration
I don’t remember where I picked up the phrase, but it’s a well-worn principle in my playbook. I file it beside “go ugly early,” verbiage I picked up from Lena West, speaking at the Country Living Women Entrepreneurs conference years ago. I wish you could have heard how she challenged a ballroom full of female business owners, faced with the challenge of building a website, to quit waiting for everything to be just right. “Ladies,” her voice boomed, “I have three words for you: GO. UGLY. EARLY.” The room responded with resounding exclamation and applause, as if we all knew and agreed: life is too short to wait for perfection.
Going ugly early has all kinds of derogatory connotations, even though it worked in that moment. But, the wording of the principle I want to talk to you about—progress through iteration—better expresses the value I feel.
Progress through iteration: the idea that I can do it one time badly, the next time not quite as badly, the next time even better, and then the next time—well, that’s when it starts to get good.
The principle of progress through iteration works under one condition…
–that I keep doing the thing.
When I sat down to write my weekly letter to you last week, I mentioned David and I have been filming The Unedit inconsistently for several months. You probably thought it was a typo. It wasn’t.
What is The Unedit, you ask?
Funny you should ask. It’s, um, a vlog? A weblog? Transparency? Consistency? Effort? A gut instinct? The humble beginnings of…we’re not sure exactly what just yet.
I wonder if Michelangelo knew he was carving the David when he showed up with a chisel every day. Or if he just showed up and chiseled.
Did you know that two other sculptors rejected that enormous hunk of marble, due to the presence of too many “taroli,” or imperfections? It languished, uncarved for forty years.
The truth is the masterpiece is always ugly, early.
I’m not claiming to be Michelangelo and our little YouTube channel isn’t a block of Italian marble. But putting something there—something authentic, real, something that says, “I’m trying” seems like a better strategy than letting it collect dust.
So, we showed up with our chisels; we could figure everything else out as we went.
Progress through iteration. We started by just trying to show up. Consistently. We didn’t tell anyone. We totally forgot a few times.
Progress through iteration. It didn’t have a name at first. Or a format. Or segments. Intros, outros, tech equipment, a plan.
Progress through iteration. It was awkward. A couple of times, I plain old didn’t feel like doing it and wondered how on earth Hoda and Jenna do it every single day.
Progress through iteration.
Little by little, engine that could.
We haven’t figured it out yet. But we will. We will show up raw, and goofy, annoyed, or sad, and we will figure this out. Every Wednesday morning at 9 am we’ll have the opportunity to practice again.
All this to say, embrace the power of progress through iteration. Let us be encouraged to take the first step towards our goals, no matter how imperfect they may seem. Let us take bias toward action, and with each iteration, let us gain confidence that we are headed in the right direction. Let us blatantly deny the forces of evil every time we banish the fear of imperfection that holds us back. Let us start with what we have, where we are, now. And let us take pride in the ability to refine, to improve, refinish, and polish.
Here’s what I hope happens: one day, I’ll tell this story about how we didn’t have a clear vision or plan, but we didn’t let that stop us from acting. We started by filming on YouTube live, and over time, we refined our format and added more elements to make it better. We even started talking about HEART, which we realized was a crucial aspect of our content.
Take the first step, embrace progress, not perfection, and watch as your idea transforms into something truly remarkable. Trust the process, and keep pressing onward, one iteration at a time.
Love this! I’m trying to make several changes this year, and in the past have given up on my goals if I misstepped once. I’m constantly reminding myself, “progress, not perfection.” Even if I don’t make the complete change I desire, I will have at least made progress, which is huge!
This is soooo good!!!