What Woke Me Up


The guy looked at me and said something that drilled down deep inside of me.

“I have to thank you. When I got laid off eighteen months ago, I was pretty discouraged, but I was also determined. I read two books that made a huge difference and put me on the right path: Stephen Pressfield’s Do The Work, and your book, Building a Life Out of Words.

I was shocked. Building a Life Out of Words has gotten into the hands of maybe 5,000 people in the last few years, at the most. It’s a little e-book I put together, and I don’t really think about it too much anymore. But it’s making a difference.

* * * * *

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

* * * * *

We have been seduced by the voices of fame and fortune. Their siren-call lured us to the island of perfectionism, and now we refuse to leave unless we can be guaranteed of success. Instead of building a makeshift boat with the materials at hand, we wait for the perfect ship to sail.

We put off creating because we reason that what we will create won’t be enjoyed by millions or even tens of thousands. We reason that what we have to say has surely been said before; what we want to write about or paint or build or capture with a camera, well, there’s nothing new under the sun, right?

And even if we do it, it’s already been done much better by someone else.


I’m 37 years old and I’m tired of waiting for inspiration, I’m tired of waiting to publish my fiction until I’m assured of a best-seller. I’m not going to let the idea of failure keep me from trying. I think there are a lot of you out there like me. You think you’re not good enough, or experienced enough, or talented enough.

But now’s the time.

Start that new blog.

Write your script.

Self-publish your novel.

Write your memoir.

Take a cooking class.

Show people your photographs.

Build your bookshelf.

Write an e-book.

Buy your first paint set and canvas.

Remodel your bathroom.

Take up the piano.

Make your movie.

You can’t get these years back. Perfectionism is getting you nowhere. Waiting for the approval of others is getting you nowhere. What you create will make a difference for someone, and that’s enough reason to stop waiting.

8 Replies to “What Woke Me Up”

  1. Well said Shawn. I was mentoring a friend recently that wanted to get involved in the community more with volunteer work. He asked me how I manage to participate in so many things. It occurred to me as I was helping him that anything outside of raising my kids, being the best husband and friend I can be, and what I get paid to do is extra credit work. Movement and doing something, that is ‘good enough,’ when it comes to extra credit is all you need. Perfectionism is the enemy of productivity and creativity, you hit it right on the head. Now get to work, I wanna see what you come up with.

  2. I dislike the word perfection, makes me think we need to do better than the next person.when in reality it slows us down to do it with excellence..excellence is something we seek for ourselves,perfection is something we want someone to praise us for…so Ive decided to do things with excellence for my own sake!..so Shawn go do it with excellence!

Comments are closed.