Friday, May 28, 2010
Is Better Really The Enemy of Good?
Voltaire is well known for saying, “Better is the enemy of good.”
Lately, I’ll been wrestling with this concept.
I’ve also thought the opposite. In fact, when I was in college, someone told me a quote that really stuck with me. “Good is the enemy of excellent.”
So who is right?
First, let me say that Voltaire certainly had a point. We can kill ourselves over perfection. Perfection is exhausting. Perfection is mind numbing. Perfection is even paralyzing.
I would fully agree with Voltaire had he said, “Perfection is the enemy of very good.” But that wasn’t his point. His point (I think) is that human nature is such that we always feel like we can make it better, and better often gets in the way of good.
It’s a fair point. But I still can’t agree. Not completely.
Most of us will settle for something good and miss out on something great. Why? Well, it’s pretty scary to give up something good. Greatness usually involves risk. Greatness involves uncertainty. Greatness involves stepping out on a limb. You know the phrase, “No guts, no glory.”
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, it’s fitting to reflect on guts and sacrifice and courage. Would we enjoy the same freedoms today if our founders simply said, “You know, I think things are good enough the way they are?”