Good enough is good enough.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned from my stepfather, was not one that he taught me directly but one that I learned from observation.
You see, my stepfather was a perfectionist.
I used to hear mum talk about it, his work colleagues and his friends talk about it. Growing up it was banded around like it was a badge of honour.
I was made to feel that I should mirror this trait as a measure of a “good man”, that being a perfectionist was somehow a high accolade to could be proud of. A revered position that those around you would hold you in high esteem for.
This was reinforced when he would comment on, or inspect any of the work that I did for school, things I’d make, or when I was learning to play a musical instrument.
It was just never quite good enough. Know what I mean?
But, and this is a big but, I realised as time went by, that being a perfectionist had consequences. And those consequences were all too clear when he became seriously ill.
He was broke.
He was diagnosed with cancer and the aggressive treatments he underwent meant he was not able to work.
We always thought (and he always said), that he would “work until the day I dropped”, never thinking he would be affected by age or illness.
Growing up under this philosophy appeared strong and noble, but strong and noble didn’t pay the bills and left mum in a very difficult situation.
In some uncomfortable family conversations, it turns out there were dozens of examples where his attitude of “the work was never good enough”, and it had to be done “properly”, had cost him dearly over the years.
As an architect looking to grow his practice, he would hire other architects to take on additional pieces of the work.
The problem was, as a perfectionist another architect would spend 4 to 6 weeks doing a piece of work that “wasn’t up to his standards”, so he then spent another 4 to 6 weeks doing it “right” – and so the cycle continued.
The realisations were heart-wrenching.
I’d always seen him as someone who was doing well in comparison with the norm, but a few enlightening discoveries showed why after 40 years of work, there was precious little to show for it.
The thing that makes the difference (as the great Dan Kennedy refers to it), is the “GE” spot. The GE spot is the “good enough” spot.
The point at which the law of diminishing returns kicks in. You can improve something to the level of excellence, but until it’s ‘out in the world, you have no idea how good it is.
Dad was very talented, but I eventually realised his perfectionism was a symptom of a deep lack of self-confidence and a fear of being judged.
Good enough is good enough to get things started.
Excellence can be continually added in the execution.