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3 Reasons “Good is the enemy of great” is Terrible Advice

We all love an inspirational meme, but that doesn’t mean it’s good advice.

If you scroll through social media long enough, you’ll inevitably encounter a self-development platitude approximating, “Good is the enemy of great,” (made famous by Jim Collins in his timeless book, Good to Great).

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While Good to Great contains many first principle concepts of great business, the mindset is poor advice for individuals seeking everyday peak performance.

The problem is, you can’t be great all the time.

Nor can you be great at everything. In fact, if you find yourself “Great” at anything, count yourself blessed.

Most will never experience greatness. For those that do, greatness will be but a flash, a moment, or a series of moments, and then it will be gone.

It is a rare few who maintain greatness for any extended period of time.

Great is relative.

Great is personal.

Great is the destination. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Good is the journey. 

What do those who maintain greatness know that the rest of us do not? 

They raise their “Good” every day. 

Here are three reasons why “Good” and not “Great” should be your goal:
 

1) Compound Nature of Good

Good is not the enemy of great. Good is the bedrock upon which great is built.

This isn’t to say you should be content with “Good,” but rather, as marathon world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge shares, have an “unwavering dedication to being good enough.”

He doesn’t overextend himself trying to be great every day, in every training.

In a New York Times interview, Eliud shares that he rarely pushes himself past 80 percent of his maximum effort during workouts. This allows him to train week after week with a “relaxed mind,” consistently pushing further what his 80 percent effort can deliver.

A 20 percent effort from Eliud in a marathon might be great to most people. However, he got there not by constantly shooting for great, but by consistently raising his good.

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2) Seeking Great Invites Perfectionism

We confuse great with perfect, and it’s easy to get paralyzed in search of perfection.

Instead, be good at as much as you can, as often as you can, until something starts to work.

  • Michael Jordan missed shots.
  • Gary Vee left Youtube.
  • The Rock did Tooth Fairy.

Perfectionism is a crutch, an excuse, a justification for not doing the work.⠀

Perfectionism is The Resistance in its glory.

Perfectionism is a scarcity mindset.

Perfectionism is proof, you live in fear that your next good idea will be your last (Unfortunately, if you operate in perfectionism, you might be right…)

You take months, maybe even years, to plan and research and strategize for the perfect idea in the ideal setting at the perfect moment.

But you never hit publish. You never move forward. You never engage. You never execute.

Perfect is a myth.

Great is perfect.

Good is messy.

Good is a dirty, grimy, sordid, convoluted, complicated, dysfunctional, awkward, chaotic, tangled, frustrating maelstrom of pain and joy, and mostly average work.

Perfectionism operates out of the assumption we get to choose to be great.

Wrong.

You do the work, every day, over and over and over again, because that’s what you do and because it is the only thing you have control over…

…to do the work and raise your level of good.
 

3) Great is Future State

Great is an expectation.

Expectations are the death of happiness.

Expectations take you out of the present moment and into a future you will never control searching for something you only think you want.

Be present.

Be good today, right now, in this moment at whatever it is you’re doing.

Great demands you torture yourself by checking how many Instagram likes your last post had, worrying about your next sales phone call, and comparing yourself to “thought-leaders” online whose lives seem much more exciting than yours.

Be present. Be patient. 

Be good right now.

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The Rub

Good is not the enemy of great, good is how to get to great.

In my own life, every time I’ve found myself expecting more, be it my baseball, creative or business career, I’ve fallen apart.

In sports, they call it pressing.

In art, they call it The Block.

In business, they call it folding.

For much of my life, I believed life was “Great of Bust.” Why do the thing if you aren’t going to be great? And then, when I inevitably wasn’t great, I’d torture myself.

Drowning my disappointment in booze and excuses.

It wasn’t until I started managing people and became responsible for their success that this changed. Being personally “Great” began to mean less than the greatness of the team.

They didn’t need me to be great once in a while, but rather good every day so that they could be good…

…so someday, we may have the opportunity to be great together.

How will you raise your “Good” today?

Yours in insurance,

Hanley

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