Good or Best…Which is the Enemy?

Good or best . . . which is the enemy?

Sometimes a great deal of truth can be found in simple phrases.  And, then again, sometimes the truth can be found when the phrases are modified.

So, for example, how many times have we heard, “If it’s not broken, don’t mess with it?

Focus on those areas where work needs to be done to effect beneficial change. Don’t waste time on things that are running smoothly.

And, yet, there is truth to be found in an intentional modification of that widely used phrase.

Haven’t we also heard, “If it’s not broken, break it?” 

Don’t settle for the status quo. Shake things up. Challenge accepted wisdom and practice.

I find myself using a phrase and its obverse frequently, recognizing that, as with the example above, context is everything.

When I began working at Rhodes College in Memphis, I heard on many occasions the following: “The good is the enemy of the best.

That holds a great deal of power.  Don’t settle.  Good is not good enough.

Whether in personal, professional or organizational performance, aim for the very best.

Excellence calls.

It is important to keep that in mind when, faced with what seems to be an overwhelming number of things on our “to-do” list and with deadlines looming, we simply want to check the box and move on. The temptation is to get it done, just to get it out of the way.

The good is the enemy of the best.

Yet, there is another side to this story and, therefore, a different turn to the phrase.

I have seen on many occasions, individuals and organizations getting bogged down as they strive for the best.  Caught up in a drive for perfection (or something close to it), action is delayed and opportunities are lost.

So, while it is true that the good is the enemy of the best, it is also important to realize that “the best is the enemy of the good.”

And with reduced staffs, budgets stretched, and other challenges, there are times when we simply have to let good be good enough.

The downside of having “the good” rather than “the best” simply isn’t worth the extra resources that would be needed for the higher outcome.

So, which is it . . . good or best?

As with so many things in life, it depends on the context.