The Gift of Motivation

Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas

with short reflections on 12 gifts

The best is the enemy of the good. Voltaire, in a letter to Frederik of Prussia

Voltaire’s words come as a bit of a shock: we are more accustomed to motivational speakers who exhort us to aim high, to pursue excellence, to visualize the win. But at least one Canadian General (now retired) adapted the phrase for his own time, place, and project environment. As he used to tell his staff, The perfect is the enemy of the good enough.

May even the perfectionists in the crowd (ahem...) enjoy the gift of motivation, overcoming the paralysis that often results from pursuing the impossibly distant goal of perfection, and instead pursuing an achievable ‘good enough’.

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4 Responses to The Gift of Motivation

  1. Dave says:

    Politicians and compromise. Good enough is optimum. Otherwise it is gridlock at the fiscal cliff.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave – One of the hardest things, I think, is knowing when to go for the compromise and when to dig in hard on principle. I’d love to know if there’s any framework of thinking around this problem. But most of the time, in most applications, we are likely better exhorted to take the deal, and carry on.

  2. Judith says:

    Excellent thoughts. My view is that if the perfect is virtually unachievable in a realistic timeframe then it is not actually perfect. On the other hand, I do admire the mind-set of those in medieval times who could spend over 100 years building a cathedral.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Yet I wonder how many ‘good enough’ moments they had in that century-plus of toil – likely at least a few! The loss of the long perspective may be our defining cultural characteristic.

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