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Good, Better, Best…

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Good, better, best

Never let it rest

Until the good is better,

And better, best

That’s one of the golden rules I was taught to obey. It is a double-edged sword: one that brings victory and success…and also causes various degrees of self-inflicted wounds.

The motivation to improve oneself and follow a serious work ethic is laudatory on many levels. It encourages personal growth, intellectual curiosity and a commitment to one’s passion. This means pushing beyond what is easy and what is obvious. The downside is that it can lead to self-absorption, compulsions, and a lack of balance in life. It reminds me of Lily Tomlin’s observation that if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. That’s probably not very fair. There are lots of nice mice in that race, trying to find who moved the cheese. I really don’t want to label all of the winners as rats.

This dilemma comes into play when thinking about the proverbial American Dream. Be ALL that you can be. Success is there if you work hard and work smart. This is the land of opportunity. Yet, today, so many successful business people are tarred and feathered because of their success. While I was growing up, it was the lazy, mediocre, non-passionate ones that were criticized. We were encouraged to work hard and get on the “Honor Roll” and strive to place high in class ranking. Today, some schools no longer have honor rolls, class rank, valedictorians or achievement awards. Everybody is told they’re special, no distinctions are made for accomplishment or achievement. Has the pendulum swung too far? If everyone is special, then “special” is the new average. Is that what we want –mediocrity that thinks it’s great? As a teacher, I believe that all students are capable of improving, and should get their just reward. But just showing up shouldn’t result in a “Gentleman’s A”—that is a disservice to all.

The downside of the “good, better, best” mentality is not knowing when a task deserves to be done using 75% of one’s capacity, instead of 150% in overkill. When is the drive to do more and to do better creating a terrific quality of life or destroying it? Because of my being the first child, surviving Catholic school and always being fully energized to do my best, I’m probably not the best person to ask for advice on this question. It comes naturally to me to work at 300% and deliver more than expected. It’s not always a healthy or wise process—there’s always a struggle for balance. I discovered it is easier to learn to tamp it down versus ramping it up… but that’s probably my Type A personality peaking or peeking through.

I just finished reading The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach and the main character deals with having and then losing an award winning performance record on the baseball field. He had absolutely no fielding errors… and then he made mistakes and fell apart. His demand for perfection ruined his possibilities. He couldn’t cope with the errors and slipped into despair. Other characters in book likewise deal with straining to be perfect, losing their bearings, and then trying to find a way to re-construct a more meaningful life. Perfection is clearly the enemy in this book. Being perfect somehow means lacking the skills to cope with failure. I always used to tell my students that I learned far more from my failures than from my successes. I believe that to be true, not because it takes the sting and stink out of losing, but because it teaches me something.

So yes, there’s merit in “good, better, best”, but I think I’d like to add a few more lines:

Good, better, best

Never let it rest

Until the good is better,

And better, best

And when you fall

Clean up the mess

Learn a lesson

Self-taught is best.

About yarnsista

I am a wordsmith, a fiber artist, a yogi, and a high energy, ball of fire. My glass is always half full, and I always have fifteen tasks ongoing simultaneously. Authority figures are not my friends, and I seldom color within the lines. I tend to “nest” in my cocoon-like home.

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