Saturday, November 18, 2017

"Good Enough" Sucks

I've revealed, twice now (here and here), a key secret of professional musicians. The first was a right-brain explanation, and the second more left-brain:
If a musician tries to play in tune, he'll, inevitably, sometimes play out of tune. But if you try to play really in tune, you'll play reasonably in tune even at your worst. This is a critical life lesson!
The professional musician's trick to playing consistently in-tune is to aim to be far more precisely in tune than you need to be. A serviceable A-natural can be conjured up anywhere between 439.7hz and 440.3hz, but if you relax into that full latitude, you will unavoidable miss those goalposts from time to time, whereas those who shoot for 439.999hz to 440.001hz never miss so widely.
I know a serious chowhound who runs a tavern that serves great beer, but merely so-so food. He explains that the food doesn't need to be so great for such a place. It's "good enough."

Here's the problem with that (and, by extension, with the world): "Good enough" sucks. If you are not trying to do great work, you will do terrible work. If you aim for good enough, results will often not be good enough. You can't get around this fact (actually, it's a law...the much misunderstood Murphy's Law).

People who try to do great work usually wind up doing merely good work, unless they're absolute OCD kooks. But if you hope to just keep up with the predominant quality around you - among colleagues and competitors - and try not to suck, I have bad news for you: You suck.

"Keeping up" means sometimes not keeping up (you win some and you lose some, amiright?). This is how under-average performance happens - nobody tries to be below average - and this is how everything turns to crap, generally.

...until an absolute OCD kook arrives to set a new standard, forcing everyone else to aim higher for a while, until it all starts collapsing once again. Entropy is the way of the Universe, and the ultimate human goal is to work against this inevitability. If you're going to fight that fight, you might as well give it all you've got.

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