Dealing with the Business of Emotion

Perfectionists are losers: “The problem is, most people don’t understand that extremely high quality work usually results from a practice my father taught me from photography:  bracketing.

Bracketing is a general technique of taking multiple frames of the same shot of the same subject using the same or different camera settings.

I used to think that professional photographers took award-winning shots with every click of the camera. As seasoned professionals, they surely did not have the same out of focus/finger in front of the lens or poor lighting problems that plagued my amateur shots, right? Wrong.  Great photographers might pluck one great shot in the middle of 99 mediocre ones.  They know that it is impossible to get the perfect shot in one try, so they  take lots and lots of pictures of the same thing with the hope that one frame will come out perfect.”

(Via Escape from Cubicle Nation.)

Pam Slim is the author of the above blog and, after having a baby and spending some time adjusting to the extra responsibility of a new child, she just recently returned to publishing her podcasts that go along with her excellent blog. I enjoy her blog, but hearing her podcast again reminded me of why I love it so much.

I’ve spent years reading books on business techniques, quality management, software design, and anything I thought would help me improve my ability to design, create, market, and sell my software and run my business, but the fact of the matter is that all this is useless if you don’t have your emotions in check as well. Pam is that missing link to that other side of our business: Our emotional well being.

It’s hard to wake up each day as a microISV owner knowing that I have to wear almost every hat in my company. There’s tech support waiting for me, design work that I don’t have crystal clear yet, code that is buggy, marketing efforts to promote, sales to track, and plenty of operations issues calling my name. If emotionally I’m not rock solid, all this can make me want to turn around and jump back into bed.

My biggest problem is feeling that if I don’t do it all perfectly, then my business will come crashing down around me and all that hard work and effort are for naught. The truth is that I make daily (and/or hourly) mistakes but I’m not seeing piles of rubble and sales still continue to flow. I’m better about this perfectionist garbage than I was in the past. About 20 years ago, I was a classic perfectionist: I’d plan and design so much that nothing ever really got done. I’ve found a balance now but it’s like any addiction—you’re only in recovery, not cured. It only takes one tech support issue to hit one of my tender spots (i.e., features that I have wanted to implement, but haven’t yet or flows that I haven’t been able to make smoother) and send me reeling in panic. My brain shouts, “It’s over! You didn’t do that well enough and now that the flaw is exposed, all hell will break loose. I told you this day would come.”

Yeah, I have a sick mind.

But this same drive for excellence serves me well also. I consider it a gift—just one that I have to feed, water, and keep trimmed lest it get out of control and consume the very productivity that it allows me to produce. I never thought of myself as an artist, because I can’t draw, paint, sculpt, or play any instrument well, but after taking a step back and looking at how I create software and the mood swings that accompany that process, I think I may qualify. MoneyWell will probably never be seen as a great work of art, but I’ve rode some emotional roller coasters in the past year of its development that would have made van Gogh proud. I think these artistic fits of highs and lows will also, if ever properly documented, secure the title of “Saint” for my wife, given that she still enjoys hanging around with me despite the chaos that I generate.

Make sure you give Pam’s post a full read and, if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to her blog and podcast. Don’t be fooled into thinking business is just about business. Business is personal, emotional, and takes more than facts to do right. Now excuse me while I go write some more code to quiet the voice in my head screaming, “It’s too late, you’re not going to finish 1.3 on time!”


1 thought on “Dealing with the Business of Emotion

  1. Pamela Slim


    Thank you so much for the extremely generous and kind words of support!

    I love your personal stories that illustrate the very human side of running a business. I agree with you — one of the challenges of being a business owner is the responsibility for so many things – some you love and some you hate.

    You can’t run a business on emotion alone, but a positive mental attitude sure helps make everything easier!

    Keep up the good work and thanks again for your support.

    All the best,


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