Is Good Really the Enemy of Great….Or is the pursuit of Greatness the downfall of too much Good?

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This is an important question for all of us who seek to think more, be more, do more, and have more in our lifetimes.  Do we spend too much time attempting to be great?  In America we often are told, or hear that good is the enemy of great, and that we must fight hard to not become complacent.  However, in other countries around the world, like Russia for example, it is often said that the quest for greatness undermines good.  So what is the real answer here, and why does it matter?  The real answer is not the one that you want to hear of course, and that is that it depends.  It really and truly depends on what our actual goals are, what exactly we are trying to achieve, and ultimately what are we willing to risk losing in order to get to where it is that we want to go.

The image on this page of two children drawing or painting creates a very nice juxtaposition for us to consider.  How many children start out loving to draw, paint, etc. and we shower them with praise, telling them even the ugliest of pictures looks amazing, and that they are so talented, etc. etc.?  Then as they get older, many of them think they want to be an artist, and all of a sudden they are met with a totally different perspective on what their art is.  Suddenly they are surrounded by and engulfed within the harsh and unfiltered criticism that is so prevalent in the world today.  Many people were “good” at drawing, or painting, but lost the pure joy they once had as soon as what they were creating wasn’t immediately accepted as great.  What is the price of losing the enjoyment from something we are good at?  Of course in order to achieve true greatness at anything in life, there will be an equally great sacrifice.  The willingness to make those sacrifices is what creates a huge separation between good and great, and the number of people in the world willing to, or able to achieve it.

We would all probably be a lot happier in life if we were able to appreciate the value in being “good” at something.  Just because we are not the greatest, the best, or one of the greatest at something, doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy and benefit from the value received for being good.  Indeed one must consider that most people will never really even get “good” at most things.  Think about the average co-worker you have seen over the years, or the average anything for that matter.  How many people take the time and sacrifice necessary to even get good at something?

So at the end of the day, getting good at something is no small matter, and a good deal of the time, we should be careful about sacrificing that good, in the search for great.  Perhaps this is no truer than in relationships.  How many times do we see couples who have a good relationship, lose something they have that is a good thing, because one or both of them is worried about finding something better, or that they are missing out on a great relationship?  In my own personal experience, spending years enjoying a good relationship can sometimes turn into a great one.  The value of something good is often under-appreciated on so many levels, we have to be very, very cautious of the grass is greener syndrome.

If we want to be an Olympic athlete, then good will never be enough.  However, if we want to be happy, enjoy the most of life possible, and still reap a good quality of rewards, then perhaps just being good at something is enough, especially if we find a way to appreciate the good that comes from it.  Making the sacrifices necessary to become great is no small thing, and for those that make it there is a huge amount of satisfaction, and of course many awards to go along with it.  However, the pain, suffering, and loss that must necessarily accompany the journey to greatness, might just be more expensive than it is worth.  After all, life is pretty short, and if we have already gotten good at something, why not make the most of it, while we enjoy all the little things we would otherwise miss, in an all consuming obsession to be the best.  Food for thought at the least, and something we can all spend a little time thinking more about.

About the Author

W.J. Vincent II has spent the last 20 years of his life building businesses from start-up to success in fields as varied as Real Estate, Technology, and Environmental Health. In January 2012, Natalia, his wife of 13 years, tragically passed away, her body having given in to her short but dramatic three-month battle with a brain tumor. Her sudden passing left W.J. a widowed father of a 1-year old baby girl and 4-year old boy of his own, along with a 12-year old boy and 15-year old girl he had been helping his mother-in-law to raise due to her battle with multiple sclerosis. Faced with a challenge greater than any he had known, W.J. was able to find strength and inspiration from the Bible. There were many miracles and messages that saw him through the darkest moments of his life.

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