In striving to be our best, it’s possible that we sometimes have to do less than our best. Or do we?
There are two main schools of thought on this.
On one side, you have those who say everything counts and everything matters. They believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. The argument is that if you let your guard down even a little, if you accept anything less than excellent, you are going to do the same in all other areas.
It’s a strong point of view.
But the contrary view also has its points. Those on this side of the fence say that some projects matter more than others. They maintain that there are some times when doing your very best just isn’t worth it. Something done well but not necessarily with excellence is better than something done perfectly but completed too late. Done is good, as they say.
Do you have a messy desk at work and a super neat environment at home? Or is it the other way around? Do you take your job seriously but your relationship with your family not so much? Some of this has to do with our core values and some with our habits and belief systems. But it is worthy of exploration.
I play a lot of tennis—mostly fun, friendly, recreational tennis. And on occasion I play in a tournament. You could say that even if you play this kind of tennis, you should always play at the top of your game—to always go for your best. But the fact is, some games aremore important than others. And some points are more critical than others. Some opponents cause me to step up my game and others don’t always bring out my best. I want to be serious about the game, play well and always try to improve. But I certainly don’t want to take it so seriously that it’s not any fun—or it’s not fun to play with me.
It’s a bit of a dance, yes?
I also play Words with Friends (like Scrabble) on my genius phone. When playing with some people, I know that I don’t always have to get the absolute best score on each turn in order to win the game. Others bring out the best in me (like my wife). But even then, is it worth spending a whole bunch of time to eke out the ultimate best score each turn or simply give it a good shot and play on with the game? Maybe I care more about tennis than a word game. I’m thinking about that.
Here at SuccessNet, we’re committed to under-promising and over-delivering. But we’ve had many discussions as we’ve neared completion of a book, course, report or even an article as to whether it’s good enough, not good enough or we’re ready to declare it both excellent and complete. It’s a good idea to have standards with which to gauge your work as energy, enjoyment and interest do tend to wax and wane.
Another area where this comes up is in learning. When have you mastered something? When do you have enough working knowledge to get the job done? Do you have to go through every lesson? Do you have to become an expert? Again, it’s a judgment call, and it depends on what the subject is.
A good friend of ours is a captain on an Airbus 320. For him (and I hope other pilots) mastery is essential. But when it comes to learning how to use FaceBook? Probably not. If lives depend on it, sure. In other things, a much lower level of competence is probably ok. You have an unknown but yet finite amount of time. How you invest it is pretty important, I think.
My sense is that a good part of the argument has to do with the difference between excellence and perfection. Perfection is a setup for failure. I don’t think anything can ever be perfect. This article could always be made better. But if I was addicted to perfection it would never be published, and we wouldn’t be exploring our views on the subject and learning what will work best for us. Perfection can be a poison to our accomplishments, but excellence is most always worth striving for.
What do you think? I’d like to hear from you as to which side of the fence you’re on. Use the comment area below this post and weigh in.