How Man Kills The Dream

You see your severed arms and legs on the floor.

You crane your head to look: only stumps remain.

Your nose fills with the stench of copper and rheum.

You slowly lose consciousness, your flesh gone grey as blood dribbles out of your mutilated body in steady four-limbed pours.

Such was the fate of Procrustes’ victims.

Procrustes, if you’ve not heard the Greek myth, was a thief who enticed travelers to his lair, where he then tied them to an iron bed for torturing.

Captives longer than the bed he cut to size by hacking off their limbs.

Those shorter than the bed he stretched to fit by rack.

It’s where we get the term Procrustean Bed, which refers to any system that forces conformity to an arbitrary standard.

It’s a cautionary tale about what happens when you empower the wrong master… when you let the tail wag the dog.

Creators… entrepreneurs… artists… game-changers and world-denters…

Our particular strain of backasswardry is to make production slave to perfection.

When you keep delaying your launch of the product, book, or business because “it’s not good enough yet,” you’ve made your Procrustean Bed: butchered your future by letting some arbitrary standard of quality drain the blood from your work.

Here’s how it goes down for most men:

1. You decide to create a product.

2. Being both blessed and cursed with a vivid imagination, you brainstorm the particulars, fleshing out your product vision in great detail.

3. Then, you make the great blunder: rather than lashing yourself to a steadfast deadline, you “plan” to launch by such and such date.

The first deadline miss is the hardest.

Then with the second, third, fourth… it becomes easier. Not because the catastrophe is lessened, but because you’ve gone numb to the loss.

In time, all pretense of deadline or “launch date” is dropped altogether. What’s left is the mild, utterly castrated “intention” to finish… someday.

The “when” of it’s no longer temporal… no longer a specific date, but instead a squishy, ill-defined standard: “when it’s good enough”… whatever the hell that means.

And so the flesh and blood product that could have been–that good-enough product or service that could have bettered the world–is left to die instead, bled out on the bed of “quality,” hacked-off limbs going to rot on the cave floor.

Here’s how it must be instead:

1. Decide to create the product, the service, the book, the house, the business.

2. Set an aggressive deadline.

3. Then–and this is the magic–let the DEADLINE determine the quality of your product, not the other way around.

You thrash and lurch to catch what magic you can in the time allotted… to make it as good as you can within your chosen frame.

Then, when the deadline comes… you LAUNCH.

Imagine that!

Typos? Launch.

Missing pieces? Launch.

Glitches, holes, formatting-issues? Launch, launch, launch.

Unless your craft is rocket science or brain surgery… this level of perfection you’ve nailed yourself to is unnecessary. And it’s killing you.


Launch, learn, and do one better next time.

Think oeuvre, not opus. Commit to creating a body of work, not some decades-in-the-making masterpiece.

“Not good enough yet” SEEMS so respectable: “Ah, a true artist,” they’ll think, utterly fooled: “See what care he takes with his work.”

But the rest of us know: you’re chickenshit, hiding your fear of rejection and ridicule behind the excuse of “product quality.”

So quit the Procrustean Bed.

Stop holding your work to the wrong standard.

If you’re ready to contribute… if you’re ready to embark on these wild adventures in value… If you’re ready to quit the ego games and MAKE AN IMPACT…

Put down the hacksaw.

Drag your product off the rack.

Quit these workless amputations and set your projects free.

Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper


  1. Harvard Miller says

    Reminds me of the quote by Reid Hoffman, “If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.”
    He did OK.
    Thanks for keeping it real. I needed this.


Speak Your Mind