Saturday, September 19, 2009

Perfectly Good

I saw a great quote in Time from one of their long time writers, John Elson, who recently passed away:
Never let the perfect get in the way of the perfectly good

Wow. Wish I had heard that a while ago, adopted it and made it my own. I make my living now standing in front of environmental newcomers and professionals like myself, trying to explain the in’s and out’s, do’s and don’ts, of environmental regulation. I am what you call a creative type - always looking for a better way to convey an idea - and when representing not just myself, but my employer and the school it is associated with, I am pretty damn serious about the product I and my program offer. In this arena, you can see, perfection is what is expected.

It is difficult for folks like me to accept “perfectly good” when you know your performance, the materials, the venue, the conditions, or the timing, are not going to be perfect. I know what perfect is, and although I have never got there, I know when it is less than what it was the time before. The idea of “perfectly good” just sounds like a cop out, “it’s good enough for government work” which then leads to “no one will know the difference” which leads to mediocrity.

But Mr. Elson, I believe, understood this, understands guys like me, and understands the reality in play. At some point we have to deliver, we have to put the product out there, and if we let perfection (which can never be obtained) get in the way of this, then we have produced nothing. There is a happy median between the two.

So how does one keep traveling on the road to Nirvana when you know that no such place exists? For me it has been to set the lowest bar at the level where I am not embarrassed for myself or for those I represent. What I have to continually focus on is never to believe I have done my very best when I have not and to not beat myself up over producing only a "perfectly good" product. Which reminds another great little bit of advice from the Serenity prayer.
...….and the wisdom to know the difference.

No comments: