Lessons in Recovery

Hi, my name is Derek, and I am a recovering perfectionist.  It wasn’t until the age of 36 that I actually figured it out. This personal discovery took place while reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. Her book and its revealing insights hit the nail on the head.

I feared failure and it was that deep-rooted fear that pushed me to chase perfection.  I was known as an athlete from my younger years all the way through college—and I was always chasing something.  The perfect game, the perfect swing, or the perfect play…it didn’t matter; it just needed to be perfect.  I would not give myself room to fail. Sadly, at times I would punish myself for having a bad game. I’d do so by forcing myself to practice more and more.  In my mind, failing meant letting everyone down—my coach, my team, and the fans.  I was rarely afraid of failing myself, but always afraid of failing others. Shame and judgment loomed large in my mind and it was the combination of those things that sent me spiraling toward perfectionism.

Perfectionism is not an endearing quality for a general manager, which I am.  The fear of failure and/or perfectionism can be contagious. And once it spreads it can cripple your organization. Our calling requires us to give our best, but not demand it. When perfection is expected with every task, decisions are not made, initiatives are not attempted, and the things that need to be done inevitably remain stagnate. From there, our teams fall into a rut. Experiences become safe and repetitive and listeners quickly take notice.

Perfectionism hinders freedom. And, it is freedom—to create, to explore, and even to fail—that allows teams to grow. Your ministry is worth the risk. The alternative becomes a team that is stuck in the mud, too afraid to take a chance on something great.

Now, I would love to say that the fear of failure doesn’t creep back into my heart every so often—it still does.  However, I remind myself of the truths above and I put up a fight. I remain willing to take risks and I continue to put myself out there. At the end of the day, I have to be comfortable with who I am in God—and so do you.

Here are three truths I hold dear…

  1. Perfection does not exist – Jesus was the only perfect person to walk the earth and I am not him.
  2. Give grace to yourself – More importantly, give grace to your team. Try new things! If they fail, it’s okay…figure out what worked and encourage those things.
  3. Dream BIG! – Treat ideas as opportunities. Live as if failure isn’t an option. From there, live out the dream as though you can’t lose.


Derek Withrow
General Manager, Walk FM
Vice President of Culture Integration, PAR
Positive Alternative Radio


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