The Goal is Good Enough, Not Perfection
How good are you at getting something to good enough? It turns out that, in many cases, learning to get their creations to good enough is what separates people who thrive in Project World from those who don’t.
Imagine that the quality of ideas or products is laid on a continuum. On one end of the continuum is crap. Not just bad ideas, but genuine crap. On the other end of the continuum is perfection. No one wants to produce crap and few actually do; everyone wants to produce a perfect creation and no one actually does.
Here’s what I’m starting to see, both in my own creations and by reading about the creative processes of others: it’s impossible to get an idea to the excellent stage in a vacuum. The best we can get to on our own is good enough.
I’ll take a second to describe the points along the continuum:
First, there’s the Okay point.
Creations at the Okay level are just that — they’re neither good nor bad. For one reason or the other, they need more work. What separates this point from the next is that it’s often clear what needs to be done to make the creation better. Unfortunately, this is where most half-done projects get stuck, and since they’re stuck here, they don’t get to …
The Good Enough point.
This is the point at which you’ve pushed past okay and you know the creation is not quite there, but either you have no idea how to get it there or you’re not sure which path you should take to get it there. The Good Enough point may manifest itself in the intro that won’t write itself. It may be a function in the code that causes some problem on the backend that makes your program run slower. It may be a color combination that seems close enough but not exactly complementary. And sometimes it’s just a jingle that we spend time on that, in the end, doesn’t matter.
Most creative people do one of two things at this point: quit out of frustration or fiddle with the creation continuously. Excellent creatives, though, are good not solely because they are particularly creative but also because they push the project through the creative red zone. And they surround themselves with other creative peers, who then help them take that good enough creation to …
The Excellent point.
A creation at this level is the best it can be; any more work on the product doesn’t make it better — it just makes it different. Most good creatives know when they’ve reached this point with the product, though they still may have insecurities and creative doubt that prevent them from sharing the product with the broader world. Or they’re grappling with their perfectionism and don’t realize that there’s no such thing as the perfect creation. (At least that mere mortals can create; I’m willing to keep theological options open.)
Why Stop At Good Enough?
Since there is an Excellent point, and I’ve told you how to get there, you may be confused about why I’m stressing getting your work to good enough rather than to excellence. Why stop there?
Because that’s the last point that we have within our own control. Outside of that, we rely on friends, peers, and other people to push it along further. Getting to good enough also lets you focus on surrounding yourself with creative friends who are focused on helping each other get better.
The terror of looking stupid in front of other people is far outpaced by the exhilarating thrill of connecting with people through what you’ve created. The truth is that the success that many creatives push for is gained only by embracing the prospect of failure and getting used to sharing our Good Enough stuff with people.
So, what can you do to get your projects to good enough? How many projects do you have at that stage, and whom can you share them with? Are you fiddling with a project — making it different but not better?
Whatever you do, internalize this saying: “Good enough and done is better than perfect and pending.”
Get it to good enough, let it go, and just get it done.
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