I serve at church in the Nursery 2 room and we always have a pre-service team meeting. The meetings start with a devotional and then one of the leaders does a very quick teaching prior to heading back to our classrooms. Yesterday, there was something said that really stuck with me. She is used the line “Good is the Enemy of Great!” and I thought it was brilliant. This morning I got up and googled it to see if this was something she may have come up with or if the origin could be found. My search led me to a site with a post from a man by the name of Tom Lemanski. I was so intrigued by what I saw because it is the essence of what I believe. In fact, the title of his post was “Working Smart”.
A few years ago, a colleague and I led a group at work called “Work Smarter, Not Harder”. The concept behind this was to pool our ideas through brainstorming sessions and learn how to streamline the things we do by working smarter and more efficiently. Our goal was to establish specific systems to follow that would essentially help us to share our workload in a more efficient manner and with better results. Basically, figure out what works and what doesn’t, learn from our mistakes and continually tweak what we do, so that the same mistakes aren’t repeated. We sought to increase our work potential, efficiency and the overall “product” by learning to do the same things in a simpler and more productive way.
Tom’s post was based on the first sentence from Jim Collins’s book called Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t. He basically goes on to talk about how in the business world, government, schools and life in general, it is so easy to settle for good. If you attain a level that you believe to be good, progress simply stops. In order to be great, you must seek to continually make things better. To look for ways to improve and enhance what you are already doing. In fact, to truly be great, you must look at it as a journey and not a destination. It is an end that will never be achieved because the premise is that you can always improve. You know the old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I think “GOOD” is much like that.
It is quite easy to be good at many things, but it takes so much more to be GREAT at even one. So, I too believe that good can in fact the enemy of great. Of course, this does not imply we can be great at everything, but more so that we need to really focus on one or two things that we can become really great at. Status quo is easy and it’s where most of us stay. I have learned that perseverance is truly one of the most difficult qualities to attain. We can all be great for a moment or a season in time, but to persevere is the true test. I can say that I did P90X and that I didn’t miss one workout in 90 days, but that was 4 years ago and now I can barely commit to 3 days of exercise per week. So, woopty-do! I was able to commit full heartedly for 3 months, but that has little impact on me today. I really don’t want to “hang my hat” on something I accomplished 3 years ago. Whether it be in our eating habits, exercise regime, business ventures, career or basic daily habits, it is the ability to persist even when faced with obstacles and challenges that really sets the standard for greatness. Greatness isn’t about being perfect, but more about striving for excellence.
Sometimes it can feel like there is a fine line between perfectionism and excellence, but there are some major differences. Perfectionism is a losing battle with oneself. It is a result that ultimately can never be achieved and the pursuit of it often leaves a wake of destruction in its path. The pursuit of excellence is more about doing the very best that you can and learning from your mistakes. As you pursue excellence you know and accept that there will be challenges along the way. I found this great article on perfectionism on a site called the University of Exeter. This table was taken from the article and shows an excellent comparison between perfectionists and healthy strivers. Ultimately, before you can be great at anything, you must first decide that good is not good enough. Decide what you want to be great at: gardening, parenting, marriage, your career, a business venture, whatever. Once you’ve prioritized and made some decisions, get started right away. Get a vision, read, study, practise, stumble, fall, get up, REPEAT. Remember, persistence is the key to be all that you can be!