The Enemy of the Good

A favorite axiom of one of the VPs at the telecomm company I used to work for was, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Andrew didn’t invent the saying – this particular aphorism is usually attributed to Voltaire, although the idea of the “golden mean” existed long before Voltaire quoted an Italian proverb in  La Bégueule. Nonetheless, I will forever associate that quote with sitting at the board room table, sipping tepid coffee, fingers itching for a cigarette, while Andrew reminded someone (oftentimes me) to just embrace the Pareto principle and get something done. The point always came down to this: there’s some ideal situation where your project will move forward smoothly, your business case will prove out your next big venture, your novel will finally get written, you’ll give up carbs and couch surfing, and you’ll finally archive all your old photographs. But you can’t wait around for that ideal situation. You need to do something now, with what you’ve got. Figure out a workable compromise and get going.

We all know those, “if I just had ____, I could,” and the “as soon as _____ is finished, I will,” moments. They hold us back. They are a perfectionist’s catchphrases, and they fuel procrastinators across the globe to not do anything under the guise of trying needing to do everything to the optimal best.

I’ve been playing this game with myself about this blog. For months.

Seven. Damn. Months.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a perfectionist. Exacting. Thorough. Meticulous. Dedicated. I’m all of those things. Sometimes, those traits served me well in my career, but most of the time, the return on investment was scant in comparison to the physical, mental, and emotional toll of demanding perfection. Hell, I used to fix the formatting and grammar on my colleagues’ documents just because I hated managing through other people’s inconsistencies. Of course, the beauty of all the extra work that I did is that no one noticed or cared.

Real talk: I was killing myself over perfectly formatted spreadsheets and labyrinthine business plans all while managing the workload of at least five people in a normal company (no, I’m not exaggerating). In the meantime, I failed at carving out time for my writing, my relationships, or my health – all because I spent so much time getting my work exactly right.  That search for perfection was the perfect excuse to procrastinate. I mean, why bother doing anything if I couldn’t do it really well? 

So yeah, I was oftentimes the person who needed to be reminded to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good because in striving for perfection, I lost sight of what the company really valued and needed: getting shit done. No one cared if if my business case used brand standard fonts and colors. Accidental misspellings and inelegant summaries were fine. A new product built using 30 manual billing codes instead of the more efficient 16 automated codes was acceptable, even though it was a messier solution with more room for error, because it saved time and got revenue on the books faster. On and on. The moral was always just move forward. Make your deadlines. Get shit done.

There have many, many benefits to leaving behind that world and pursuing a new career path as a writer and consultant. But a major drawback of this massive lifestyle change has been that I’ve occasionally fallen back into old patterns without the constant demands of a dynamic industry to push me beyond my self-made constraints.

I’ve spent seven months thinking about writing in this blog and making excuses for not just writing something.

I was pregnant and my head was foggy….

I was tired, and I didn’t have the energy to write eloquently about my life….

I had an interesting idea for a topic, but I couldn’t get to it until I wrote ____ (fill in the blank) first.

I was going to post, but first I had to select and edit the photos – which meant that I really needed to finish archiving all of my cloud-based pictures first because blah blah blah. Lately, I’ve found myself waiting for the right moment to write my son’s birth story. I tell myself I’ll do it when:

… I’m not so tired…

… and I have some quiet time…

…after I’ve written at least one new short story draft so that my creative fiction always takes precedence….

I have a list of half-baked topics in my phone that were waiting on a similar set of prime conditions before they could bloom into actual posts. This is that list (mostly):

  • Stretching to Accommodate: Stretch Marks & Plus Size Pregnancy
  • The Best & Worst of What I Can Be (The Shock of Gestational Diabetes)
  • Aggrey’s Birth Story
  • New Mom, Old Lens: Examining a Lifetime of My Own Judgments
  • Silenced Narrator: Searching for the Voice in My Head
  • Living My Parents’ Lives
  • Counterfeit Adulthood
  • Moments Making: Visiting Dad’s Grave
  • Traditions New & Old
  • Hurricanes, Law & Order, and the Rituals of New Motherhood
  • Strange New Body (of Regrets) – The Way I Look & the Things I Did or Didn’t Do
  • Branding Parenthood & Personhood
  • Etc., etc, etc….

It got to the point that just looking at this list would hold me back – forget actually sitting down to do something.

You see the problem here.

Yesterday, I told my bestie, Samira @, that I was ready to shut this blog down for awhile because I just can’t seem to focus on it, and I have to dedicate my scant “free” time to finishing my novel, etc. Then, in her marvelous Capricorn way, she made some comment about her own commitment to writing at least one post a month, come what may, and I got to thinking that maybe I need to get out of my own way, get embrace the Pareto principle, and just do something. Take one little step forward. This is one of the traits I admire most about Sam: she just puts herself out there and tries.

Imagine that.

So here I am, writing this post. This post is my one, teeny tiny step forward. It’s neither the birth story I wanted to share nor does it touch on the profound changes that came with motherhood. I’m not writing about the art of writing or the joys of getting to know my son.

This post is a promise to myself. To try. To do what I can and accept what I cannot. It’s the first of many little steps I’m taking – towards completing my novel, towards improving my health, towards finding my way as a new mom.

So, I’m not going to proofread what I’ve written or agonize over syntax. It’s good enough. I’m not going to spend more than 60 seconds selecting a picture to accompany my writing, either. Hell, I’m not even going to edit that picture. In a few seconds, I’m going to just stop and hit the “Publish” button.

And I’m ok with that.

Until next time,

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P.S. Here’s my handsome boy in all his unedited glory.