Perfect is the Enemy of Good
If you’re here, you’re probably aware that I recently launched a new course. What a learning experience it’s been! By far, the most important lessons I learned were related to this concept.
You see, I’m a recovering perfectionist. Much like substance addiction, a perfectionist is always in a state of recovery. I used to think it was a virtue - you know, commitment to excellence and all that. But over the years I eventually came to realize the truth: The pursuit of perfection was a flaw I hid behind. I was worse off because of it.
Building The Big 3: Steps to the Big Stage was a process that was stalled out most of the time, except for brief periods of irregular inspired work. It was that way for over a year.
I had to confront the truth of “Perfect is the enemy of good” once again in order to get it done. I had to accept that it won’t be perfect, it can’t be perfect, and that all I needed to do was create something good enough in order to provide people with the value I envisioned. After begrudgingly accepting that truth, the project basically completed itself!
Perfect is the enemy of good.
Often attributed to Voltaire, the essence of this quote shows up in everything from stoic philosophy to General George Patton’s military strategy in World War Two. Its essence states that the pursuit of perfection stands in the way of action. When it’s time for action, we must be willing to move forward with good enough. Otherwise we’re not likely to take any action at all.
When we’re seeking growth, embracing a new challenge, starting a new chapter, or crossing a point of no return, the idea of perfection should go out the window. There’s no such thing as perfect at those points.
Instead of this progression:
Bad - Good - Better - Best (waiting until here to act)
We must find peace with this:
Bad - Good (start action!) - Better - Better - Better - Better… and on.
This is the way to move from thought into action, from preparation to performance, from concept to product. We need feedback. We need experience. We need to re-iterate. None of those happen when we’re stuck in a bubble, pursuing perfection before all else.
Besides, who are we to know what’s perfect anyway? Let’s have the courage to let go and find out what better might look like. Chances are we'll find ourselves blowing right past any initial idea of perfection before long.
Here's to you, being good enough to get better!