Is good the enemy of great? Or is perfection the enemy of good?

A number of years ago, I saw Cirque du Soleil perform Ka` at the MGM Grand.  I didn’t know a great deal about the show until reading about it after the performance.  The LA Times review confirmed my belief that it “may be the most lavish production in the history of western theater.”   I thought, “Yup. That’s sounds about right to me!”  I’ll never forget it.  I reflected on how this amazing ensemble comes to work and performs this show twice a day, five days a week – knowing full well that for 95+% percent of the people in the audience, it will be the only Ka` experience they will ever have.  They have to “bring it” to each and every performance!  No show ever gets “phoned in.”  Together, performers and crew members alike are committed to WOWing every audience that walks through the doors of the $220 million theater specially created for this show.

In my post, Peer Group Accountability: Who’s Responsible?, I essentially mentioned that it starts with each of us holding ourselves to high standards and modeling that behavior to inspire and motivate others.  In researching and writing about peer advisory groups, I’ve talked to countless members and group leaders who extol the virtues of their culture of group accountability – saying by comparison, that individuals, left to their own devices, primarily dare to be average.   I’m sure you’re bristling at the mere suggestion, but ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can do to be at the top of your game each and every day.  Do you go to work with the same commitment to excellence as the team at Cirque du Soleil?  If you do, you’re a rare bird.

Contrast Jim Collins’ explanation of “good being the enemy of great” (where good is too often good enough), with the concept of perfectionism and the familiar quote from Voltaire, translated literally as “The best is the enemy of good”  or more commonly expressed as ‘”The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  The quote references the paralyzing effect of the pursuit of perfection. It’s where the hope to implement the perfect solution can result in no solution at all. So is good the enemy of great? Or is the pursuit of perfection the enemy of good?  Seems to me, they are two sides of the same coin.  Neither is an excuse for mediocrity.

Understanding these dynamics is just one of many ways being part of the right peer group or high performing team will help you discern the difference and inspire you to achieve more than what you could ever do alone.  What’s more, it will help you bring a little Ka`into your own life.

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