“Good is the enemy of great.”
Jim Collins, business consultant, author, and lecturer on the subject of company sustainability and growth and author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t.
I ran across this quote the other day and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. If things are good that’s good, right?
But what if you want things to be great?
Think about your income. If things are good – you’re paying the mortgage, putting money away for retirement and have some left over at the end of the week to take the family out to dinner – how motivated are you to make the changes you need to make to get to great? Not very.
If things are good, you’re pretty happy. And you might worry that changes won’t work or will actually make things worse. Why rock the boat?
If things aren’t good however – you can’t pay the mortgage, your retirement account is empty and you haven’t been out to dinner in months – you’re very motivated to change. You’re on the lookout for new ideas, you try new tactics and you work hard to make things better. If the boat is already sinking, rocking doesn’t seem too bad of an idea.
Another enemy of great is “good enough”. For example, when we first start in business we take what we can get. We’re desperate for income; we’re not sure where the next client is coming from so we work with anyone.
Once we’ve been in business awhile we start thinking about what niche we best serve; what type of work are we best at. We also start thinking about who our ideal client is: the type of work they bring us, how much we enjoy working with them, how ready they are to pay.
The problem is that before we find the ideal client we often run across the almost ideal client. This client is close to what we’re looking for but not quite. Maybe the work they bring isn’t exactly what we’d really prefer to do. Or maybe they’re not quite as easy to work with as we might like. Or maybe they dicker with the price or pay late.
Julia Cameron talks about this in the Artist’s Way. She says that when you make a decision – like deciding to only take on ideal clients – the universe sets out to test your resolve. Before you run into an ideal client, you’ll be presented with an almost ideal client. Her premise is that if you say no to the less than ideal, you’re signaling to the universe that you were serious about your decision. It is only when you turn down the “good” that there is room for the great to appear.
This can be a scary prospect however. Can you really turn down almost great to wait for the great? It takes courage and faith. You need to be confident that you have the ability to go beyond goodness to greatness. You have to be confident that if you turn away this “good enough” client that a great one will come along.
How do you keep from getting stuck in the good trap?
1. Make sure you have a bigger vision for your business.
Keep this vision where you can see it. This bigger vision will remind you that while things are good, you’re really shooting for great.
2. Keep setting higher goals.
Don’t get complacent. By all means enjoy your success, but keep striving for greatness.
3. Believe in yourself.
As you become more experienced in business you’ll naturally become more confident. Use this confidence to trust that when you’re ready to pass over good, the great will appear because you’ve done the work and are ready for it.
Giving up good for great isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be very scary; particularly the first time you do it. But in the long run, if you want great, you have to remember that good is the enemy.
Andrea J. Stenberg
Have you ever passed up good for great? Please share your story with us by leaving a comment.