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Perfect is the Enemy of Good

My Sunday breakfast TED talk

Aristotle propounded the principle of the golden mean which counsels against extremism in general.

In 1726 Montesquieu, in his Pensées wrote “Le mieux est le mortel ennemi du bien” (The better is the mortal enemy of the good).

In 1770 Voltaire paraphrased an Italian proverb in his Dictionnaire Philosophique when he wrote, “Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien. Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”(In his writings, a wise Italian says that the best is the enemy of the good)

Today, we say “Perfect is the enemy of good”

Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, any further activity then becomes increasingly inefficient. We are embroiled in a Nirvana fallacy, creating a false dichotomy that presents one option which is obviously advantageous, while at the same time being completely implausible. A person using the nirvana fallacy can attack any opposing idea because it is imperfect. Even their own. Under this fallacy, the choice is not between real world solutions, it is, rather, a choice between one realistic achievable possibility and another unrealistic solution that could in some way be “better”. This leads us to get trapped in a sort of analysis paralysis and can sap our energy and creativity. We become bogged down looking for a better way that we may not know the techniques to achieve or does not exist and cannot move forward and our production stops as we become entangled in unrealistic expectations and goals. There is nothing wrong with becoming better at something. It’s what we want and strive for. There needs to be a self understanding and realization though that there is a path to get there. We must settle for lesser results than what we expected and learn from those efforts, be it a failure or a success even if it is not what we sat down to achieve in our mind’s eye when we started. We expect more than our abilities allow us to achieve. The solution is of course to keep it interesting and to keep trying.

In 2018 Stephen McCranie wrote in his comic Space Boy “A master has failed more often than the beginner has even tried.”

We achieve our goals through practice.

Art is a journey.

16Richard Lobinske, Jay Hoffman and 14 others8 CommentsLikeCommentShare