Imagine you’re walking along the beach and you see something sparkling in the sand. You bend down to pick it up and there in the palm of your hand is something that looks like a generously sized diamond. You put it carefully in your pocket and the next day you take it to an expert who says ‘I have good news for you, it’s real. What’s more it’s almost perfect, just the tiniest hint of an imperfection that holds it back from being priceless. If you’re thinking of selling it will fetch a good price, maybe a few thousand, who knows maybe more if we cut and polish it first?”
The emotions you are likely to feel will be complex and contradictory. No doubt you will consider your new reality, do I sell or keep it? It’s imperfect, do I go back and see if there is another? In your excitement you may also feel some regret, the fact that it was not quite ‘perfect’. It’s a good stone but not a great one.
The difference between good, great and perfect for something you find is obviously not the same as for something you are trying to make or achieve but I chose to lead with my story because there is a link. When you find out that something is not perfect, how does it influence your decision making and consequent actions?
Jim Collins may have been the first to write ‘Good is the enemy of great’ in modern times but the notion goes back as far as people have been making things. Voltaire and Shakespeare before him wrote on the topic, albeit as warnings of not to spoil what you have by risking going for something better. But here’s the rub:
You have something good, it works, it delivers what is expected – but it’s not great, what’s wrong with that? And yet, good performers are never recognised or applauded. Why should they be? To deliver to a good standard day in and day out is what we are expected to do, but to become great at something, is I am sure something that all of us secretly want, even if we are not prepared to put the effort in to achieve it.
I believe there are works of art, musical instruments, simple tools and other artefacts that are perfect in themselves, correctly described as ‘great’. They do not need improving – however, I believe that we must always remember that deep down, good is not the same as great and to aim for good and then to fall short would be a mistake. On the other hand, perfection does not exist. So if we aim for perfection and then achieve great, then we should be OK, no? Great effort, great attempt, great results, great failures – after all, great is good as it gets, isn’t it?
Have a good week
Always aim for great – after all what can happen? Harley Lovegrove.
Tip of the week:
Gain control: Think about your rationalisation processes for accepting when something is good enough. What are your criteria, time, money, emotional energy, personal situation, family?