When Good Enough is Excellent

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If your intention for any project is “good enough” than stopping at “good enough” is an excellent outcome.

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1.7.15 created after the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper bombing in Paris.

I grew up in a household where perfection was the goal. It was understood that perfection could never be reached but having this as a goal suggested we work harder and harder in hopes of getting closer.

My dad was a philosopher and professor. He would often use our dinner table conversations as a sounding board for illustrations he wanted to use with his students. Here is one of his stories.

“What is a perfect piece of apple pie,” he would question his freshman classes.

Answers varied from, “No apple core,” to “Flaky crust,” to “My mother’s,” etc.

His reply remained the same, “Is this really a perfect piece of pie?” Each time, students would amend their answers with even more definition, “Must be juicy,” “Has lots of cinnamon,” “Is a very large piece with ice cream.”

Relentless, he would continue to ask, “Is this really a perfect piece of pie?” The Socratic questioning would go on until no one dared try giving the answer. The room would fall silent.

Only then would Dad share that perfection can never be attained.

Today, we have learned to replace the word perfection with excellence. I do not think relieving us of the goal of perfection is harmful. Instead, excellence allows us to be positive rather than critical toward ourselves – you know that back channel head chatter peppering our analysis of tasks. We thrive when we feel positive. We are willing to try new things; willing to risk failure because failure is good enough on that day during that project.

Good enough is not the same for everyone. There is no yardstick for good enough. If there were, we wouldn’t waste so much time fussing over it. And to make matters worse, good enough changes as we become more proficient at a task.

Good enough is not a constant because it is constantly changing.

Why is it important to decide ahead what is good enough? Because we can give ourselves the same pat on the back for good enough as for excellent. The goal we wanted – good enough – we reached, and that is excellent.

Many years ago, I gave up perfection in favor of excellence. However, not all tasks deserve to reach the level of excellence. When I purposely decide a project is good enough, I can say that I met the goal and therefore, good enough was an excellent outcome.

Good Enough is Excellent when it is exactly the outcome you are aiming for. Once you endorse that good enough is excellent, it is easier to spot when you should stop and move on.

What is your story about “good enough?”
Showing 8 comments
  • Liliana Fijman
    Reply

    Good enough…for now? may or may not mean excellence. Good enough is time sensitive as you mentioned and relative to where we are in the trajectory we set out for ourselves. Sorry I do not have a personal story but yours is very instructive. Thanks Ann.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Yes, “for this project, for this person, at this time” good enough is an excellent outcome. I am trying to take the judgment of a future concept of excellence out of the equation for this particular project, person and time. Thanks for commenting because it helps clarify.

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    I can relate to the idea of growing up with the influence of perfectionism. I like the shift to excellence. I consider myself a “recovering perfectionist”. I had an excellent boss and a project methodology that introduced me to the idea of “good enough.” I like the additional shift that “good enough” at times is also “excellence.”

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      I like your idea/word – shift – so many of us feel we are not able to change our patterns/habits of thinking.

  • Robin Richardson
    Reply

    Ann, I really enjoy this. It comes at great timing while I sort out many events in my life. It helps breathe a sigh of relief for me. Thank you.
    I actually use the word perfect when I am speaking to loved ones. I tell them a gift they got me is perfect or what they did was perfect. I am not certain why I say this, it happens to come out naturally. Perhaps I have heard that perfect is impossible so I go against the grain and voice that it is.
    However, on my end I have always not strove for perfection because I have felt I could never obtain it. And because of that I’ve set the bar low for myself in several areas of my life. But, it’s a new day! I look to challenging myself and breaking any shell of discomfort I’ve been under for years.
    I’ve lately been able to surprise myself with my attempts and challenges. I’ve come to find a balance between excellence and my natural approach.
    The story of your father is refreshing and comforting. It sounds like you had quite the Dad!

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Robin, yes I was quite fortunate to be born into my family. My dad, a philosopher, was a gentle person and a very good teacher, both in classroom and home. And now his story has prompted further thinking by a number of readers. I think he would smile, if he knew. Now, your word “balance” is of daily importance. I love your art and your writing. Interesting how our paths crossed on a bus trip some years ago. I am pleased to stay connected.

  • Robin Richardson
    Reply

    That means a lot to me Ann! I am happy that we have crossed paths. Please let me know of any other events that you may find fitting for me to get involved with.

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      Ann Grasso
      Reply

      Will do, Robin. Currently, I am hopeful we will have people willing to collaborate on projects. I will add your name to that list and hope that others speak up too.

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