The Best is the Enemy of the Good Enough

All the time, we hear “the good is the enemy of the best”, meaning we should not settle for the merely good enough, but should strive for excellence. This is a noble sentiment, and has a certain merit. However, it has also produced horrific results.

Most of the things in life, we do not do perfectly, or even consider pursuing perfection in all we do. It is (1) simply too exhausting, and (2) impossible for a normal mortal to achieve . This is not an apologia for mediocrity or for slacking off, merely a recognition of the limits under which real (not theoretical) folks labor.

For those snooty purists who won’t settle for less than the Perfect cup of coffee, the Perfect steak, the Perfect Spouse and Perfect Children… really! Art thou so much Perfect that you must demand Perfect things?

In married life, this leads to divorce, because you know that nobody is ever Perfect Enough. In politics it leads to the sort of insane fanatic doctrinal purity which allows no compromise with the very imperfect persons on The Other Side. In religion it causes the incessant “church hopping” that ever pursues the phantom of Perfection and never is satisfied.

It leads to The Borg, to their collective search for “Perfection”.

Good Enough, which is not mediocrity, regardless of what the Excellent Ones mutter, is what gets us through any given day. Good Enough allows for room to live and breathe, and lets us concentrate on what is really important in our lives. Good Enough lets us refrain from judging other people and allows for human imperfection.

Your kid struck out at the Little League game? Did he have fun? Good Enough!

Your husband came home from work crabby and distracted? Will he rejoin the human race after a margarita? Good Enough!

Your job is real crappy and your boss an idiot and you can’t get out? Can you plant roses in all that fertilizer? Good Enough!

Now, all this is not to say there are some things that do not deserve our best effort. There are some things which we value more than others, and it is in regard to those things, we can give our excellence. We can do this because we have not frittered away our energies on futile attempts to make everything the Best.

In life, almost all the time, we must compromise with other people, or with circumstance, or with hard physical facts. Compromise negates Best, and takes us to what works and keeps the wheels rolling, to Good Enough.

And that’s Good Enough.