Voltaire said: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Jim Collins said: “Good is the enemy of great.”
Steven Fulmer said: “Great is the enemy of done.”
That’s a lot of enemies.
So let’s break it down.
Voltaire was talking about the balance between purpose and resources. How, in an attempt at perfection, we can ruin something that is perfectly good. Put another way, Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Imperfections aren’t always bad and sometimes, oftentimes even, they are the very qualities that makes things and people special.
But Collins has a point as well. He avoids the use of the word perfect or perfection, but strives to point out that “good enough” gets in the way of better. If we settle for good enough, we aren’t pushing ourselves beyond the average, the mediocre, the ordinary… and we run the risk of settling for The Cream of the Crap: The worst of the best, the best of the worst.
Tie them together and you get the Fulmer-ism. Given enough time, money, talent, and resources, you can make almost anything and everything better. Yes? But here’s the problem: we never have enough of those things — especially time and money. And like most things in life, it’s the balance of which we often lose sight.
We don’t need to be great to simply do, and what happens too often is people hold themselves back because others are better; because they can’t be “the best”; because others have such a head start. If I can’t be great why start? If it’s not great, why put it out there?
But not everything needs to be the Mona Lisa to reconsidered great art! And every — and I mean EVERY — “great” person in ANY field — Michelangelo, Mozart, Oprah, Micheal Jordon, Jeff Bezos, Simone Biles — started as a beginner. They went with “good enough” en route to their greatness. And even they were less than perfect along the way! Ask any of them, and they can likely show you the flaws they still see in their masterpieces.
Greatness is achieved incrementally. And along the way towards what is great is a lot of mediocre, mistakes, growth, evaluation, consideration, and change. Don’t let great stand in the way of your — or the people you lead’s — ability to fail-forward-faster towards greatness. Great, one could argue, is a destination never full reached, a state of mind you can hold every step of the journey.
Strive for that.