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