Monday, November 8, 2010

Is Best Always Good?

I just heard it again this weekend, the pithy maxim, "Sometimes the good is enemy of the best." What they mean is that people sometimes settle for less than the best when they ought to have pressed on to do better.

And while this statement is true, the operative word is sometimes.

Years ago we met a woman in a nursing home who used to recite a clever verse bearing this same message. It went like this:

Good, better, best,
Never let it rest
Til your good gets better
And your better best.

While "the best" is a good target, I would like to suggest that the reverse can also be true…. Good is good, and sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

Yes, in a horserace there can only be one winner. In Olympic competition, a single gold medal goes to the best in each field of competition. And when competing for a single job opening, you want to be the candidate who comes out on top. But how do you become that candidate? It may be that efforts to have a "perfect" interview will come across as stilted. The best candidate will no doubt be one who did his or her homework, but also came across as the most natural. (There are exceptions. The best rocket engineers may or may not interview well at all, but will undoubtedly be evaluated on their knowledge of rocket science.)

When I was a yong art student I held the conviction that my next painting should be my ultimate work, the best thing I had ever done in terms of quality and significance (whatever that means.) This naturally puts a lot of pressure on you, which is not all bad if you are striving to be a "serious" artist. But it can also take away a bit of the joy of creation.

Striving for perfection can result in paralysis. And what is perfection anyways? Is there a "perfect" website? What is the perfect blog theme? The perfect store location? The perfect family?

In short, whether building a boat or painting a landscape, it is good to do good work. But don't quit before starting because you lack the skills to produce the best boat ever or make the greatest landscape painting ever seen. The same applies to good deeds. And to living a good life.

Just my two cents. Have a good day!

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