The Enemy of Good

Voltaire is credited with first noting, “The best is the enemy of the good.” Even with all of the variations of this saying offered by those we look to for wisdom, the concept still trips us up . . . We are afraid that we might not say something in the best way, so we don’t say anything at all . . .  Our success isn’t 100% assured, so we never start . . . We give too much weight to someone else’s critique and allow it to undermine our confidence in a plan.

For those of you (okay, those of us) who strive to be the best (fill in the blank), let’s set the record straight: Best is a relative term. It lies in the eye of the beholder. Best is a “binary trap” that keeps far too many people from ever starting. It’s a false sense of either/or — either you are the best or you’re not — that drains the energy out of a lot of things that could be pretty awesome. So what steps can you take to make sure the quest for the best doesn’t become the enemy of good?

• Recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect plan. Have you ever developed a plan for anything that went exactly the way you thought it would? Plans provide the guardrails that give you a place to start, and a general idea of the direction you should go. However, even “the best” plan will evolve as you move through it, so why not give yourself a head start with a plan that is “good enough to get going” and adapt as needed?

• “Best” is a point in time, excellence is a journey. Pick your sport — the “best” on any given day may not be in the next game/race/match. Continuous improvement, upping your game, strengthening your fundamental skills is something that we all can strive for, regardless of the score at a particular point in time. Thinking about how to be the best doesn’t move the dime, so get out there and start already.

There will always be someone who disagrees. Even if you feel you have the best plan, the best people, the best strategy . . . there will always be someone who thinks you are full of hooey. There is a critic around every corner, especially for someone who holds themselves out as a leader, who is taking the risk to move forward. Instead of being discouraged, why not see the critique as an indication that you are creating enough forward momentum to challenge the status quo, and then use that as motivation to keep going.

Where is “best” your enemy? Maybe it is time to call its bluff.

And when you do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself moving right past good, all the way to amazing! 

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