Monday, October 30, 2017

When Great Becomes the Enemy of Good



This article was originally about how you shouldn’t get yourself all in a tizzy because you can’t save the environment on your own. But, I soon realized the problem goes much deeper and applies to many more situations. So, today, we are going to look at how you shouldn’t let your inability to be great get in the way of being good enough.

Please Stop Burning Styrofoam

Do you often find yourself on the business end of an anti-environmental bender of burning Styrofoam and rolling coal because you can’t make up for all of the cows farting? One of the annoying (and vaguely racist) arguments for doing nothing to save the environment is that anything we do will be erased by the Chinese. Essentially, we can’t be perfect, so why try to be good?

This concept was first popularized by Voltaire’s aphorism “the better is the enemy of good.” It is related to the Kurt Cobain fallacy that states that if we can’t achieve perfection at a task, then we shouldn’t even start.

Good Enough Is Often the First Step to Greatness

If there is a task you must complete, then it helps to set a deadline. You may have been able to tell that nothing I write is perfect. Artists (did you know this blog post is art?) would never produce anything if they didn’t have deadlines. They would continue to strive for perfection. For example, it took the American hard rock band Guns as well as Roses about fifteen years to finish Chinese Democracy because they were working toward perfection…and finally achieved it.

Getting back to the environment, we have to leave a planet that our offspring can live on. Of course, you can set personal deadlines for when you want to achieve certain environmental goals, but you might get diagnosed with Asperger’s. Instead, I recommend just doing the best you can. Every little bit counts. This works for a lot of different aspects of life: spending time with and raising your kids, eating healthy, dumping addictions, and donating to public radio. Half of the joy of life is striving for something (the other half is being all up in the club getting tipsy).

All Good Aphorisms Have their Downfalls

According to the Brains Report’s Department of Nonsense Statistics, the typical space shuttle has right around 1,934,720,131 parts to it. You might think based on our above conversation that I would recommend sending that shuttle up with 1,934,720,130 of those parts in good working order. Good enough, right? Well, in some instances, perfection is necessary. After all, that O-ring may not work well in cold weather and could kill everyone.

This is an extreme example, but there are several instances where you need to be great/perfect or you should stop. The key is to identify these instances.

Anyway the moral is that you should go ahead and do a darn thing. Launch that website, start that business, stop using Styrofoam, teach your son about consent, etc. You may just be good at these things or just plain suck at first. But, you’ll learn along the way. It’s okay not to be great, but keep striving if it’s something you value.


Is this blog post the enemy of great, good, perfect, and everything in between? Let us know in the comments below.

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