The Pottery Experiment: Perfectionism, Practise, and Getting Things Done

by | Jul 14, 2023 | Business Lessons, Chapter Four, Content Creation, Self Sabotage | 0 comments

If you’re a perfectionist… keep reading

Have you ever been secretly (or publicly), proud to be a perfectionist because, perfectionists are socially valued over procrastinators? Me too!   

But as a Dr of reality and identity who serves 100’s of entrepreneurs a month, there’s a story I tell A LOT to high achievers who come into service-orientated, heart-led entrepreneurship only to go around in circles and struggle to make real money in their business. 

I tell it a lot because everybody needs to hear it, at least once. Because it’s time we challenged the artificial construct that separates perfectionism from procrastination once and for all. 

Perfectionism is just procrastination society affords a value to because it looks like work

Anything that’s not serving you is serving someone else (not in the good way). 

This story comes from Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking (D. Bayles and T. Orland 2012) and, an art teacher. Who split his class into two groups. 

One would be graded on QUALITY. To get an A+ they each needed one perfect pot. The other group were to be graded on QUANTITY. They needed about 50lbs each of pottery to get that gold star grade, but the good news was it could be sh*t AF. As long as it was a pot, it was enough.

When the deadline arrived, he discovered something interesting. In fact, Commander that-new-one-is-so-HOT Spock would say, FASCINATING. 

The ones who were being graded on QUANTITY… their work was: Simply the best… Better than all the rest… Better than eeehhhhh-neeee-one… 

De-fin-iiiiiiiiite-ly better than the-people-tasked-with-making-that-one-perfect-pot. 

The reason?

They were playing, curious, experimenting, doing, action-taking, making, mess-creating, mistake-making, having fun, full on learning IN THE MOMENT. For themselves. In their own bodies. 

Their sleeves were rolled up, and they were in it. No fear of judgement. No overthinking. Just completing things through to the end, over and over, even if they were “rubbish.” Trying something new next time because, there were no rules! Going back to the thing that worked better last time because, there are SOME rules, like gravity and whatnot. In doing so, they got better. A LOT BETTER. What’s happening here is the development of embodied skill, or knowing

The ones making the “one perfect pot…” not so much. 

They were thinking. Planning. Worrying. Studying. Feeling inadequate. Doing stage 1, messing it up, scrapping the whole thing, doing stage 1 again, and never actually creating much of anything. They were in a black hole of perfectionism that kills PRACTICE. They talked about what “perfect” meant. They researched. They worried about what people would think. They looked into what other people did think. They compared. They KNEW they were going to be judged. The result? They acquired information, which the contemporary world styles as “knowledge” but without practice the body does not generate the experience of knowing. There’s no flow. Just perfecti-crastinating, and lack-lustre results. 

Practising is everything

We experience being as emergent from what we believe we are and, we believe in relationships with the things we repeatedly do. Medical anthropologist Mario Martinez shares some fantastic examples of just how profound this can be. From medical cursing, where people die because they believe they are terminally ill after a mistaken diagnosis, to walking and talking like an older or younger person after reading specific articles, the study shows over and over that belief informs embodiment, doing informs belief, and embodiment informs doing. 

You want to be brave enough to do the thing… you have to find a way to “just do it” before you feel brave enough. Adopting a mindset of valuing the practice supports this. A mindset of only recognising results crushes it. 

It feels really challenging, when you want to shine your brilliant light into the world and the only way to practise is to shine it. Which means being visible before you feel ready. Being bright, before you feel confident. Being messy before you’ve got a crack at perfect.

Before every perfect comes practice. Always.  

That means perfect never comes before clarity, skill-building or connecting, putting yourself out there to get peer approval (and critique) or messing up, nailing it or pivoting. It doesn’t come before confidence or certainty. There isn’t a way to perfect that bypasses those things. There isn’t way to creating money either.  The closest we can ever get to perfect comes from the messy middle of practising. 

It’s the practising and making mistakes and getting feedback; from yourself i.e. “oh – this pot worked out great when I tried that!” or “Oh, well that one is st*t. I won’t do that again!”

From others “Oh, that one’s the best yet, I LOVE that glaze!” or this face… that gets you close to perfect. Attempting perfect before you practise is an oxymoron. It just can’t happen. 

Believing in yourself to navigate the highs and lows of practising before people have validated your work is the only way to ever get that validation. Better still, it’s also the way you become the person who doesn’t need it. Being brave before you have the evidence, and being resilient when it doesn’t go exactly to plan is what actually gives you the evidence that you can do it. 

You just have to learn to collect the evidence. 

The other way around – aiming for perfect, right out the gate – keeps people stuck on the starting line. 


Dr. Morgana

Dr. Morgana McCabe Allan


There’s always more to LEARN

And here’s just a few starting points…

“I’m sharing a win, I made more money this week in my business than on any other offer last year. And it was so easy. This money river is flowing today! I’m only $700 away from hitting my new monthly goal and it’s only the 2nd of the month!”

Elena Saxton

Coach for Artisans

Morgana McCabe Allan is incredibly wise yet personable, revolutionary yet relational, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be coached through mindset calls with her. I will be hearing her words in my head for years to come!

Danielle Bettmann

Host of Failing Motherhood Podcast

“I signed my first client!! {…} I showed up on the call fully present, gave her everything I could and I told her I want to offer her a 3 month package where I will honour the free sessions I had posted about within the price point. And she signed up! 🙂 “