When right is not good enough

February 8, 2011 by Jared Goralnick

In finding the critical path, there are things to ignore and omit.  Going against the ways you’ve learned before might not seem obvious, but it may be the only way to move forward.

The essential requires balancing the details and making what feels like sacrifices…but aren’t.  The right might not be good enough when the clock ticks on.

Zoom in enough, and you can refine to a state of perfection.  The color of that logo can be just right on the homepage, the hollandaise has just the right spice, there’s nothing  I’d want to change about the last minutes.

But taken as a whole, there’s always room for improvement.  That color doesn’t print well, the food’s only lukewarm, the day would’ve been better if you’d gotten up two minutes earlier and not missed the morning train.

There are details worth sweating, and moments where the best option is to look the other way.

We become experts and get to the point where we understand those perfect details.  We think of our learned and tested approach as the right one.  We learn the hard way that cutting corners will get us in trouble.  So we do things the right way.

But what’s right to you isn’t really the right way.  It’s just a way that works, and may even work well, but it’s just one way.  And certainly not right by any real governing standard.

As we get older and develop more refined tastes it’s important to accept that there are times when we can’t follow what we consider the right path.  No, we shouldn’t do something outright wrong, but we do have to adjust to the circumstances.

When you’re running a business or building a life, it’s not just about doing things right.  It’s also about knowing which details to ignore, which things to put off, and when it’s okay to make mistakes.

Part of executing on the essential is letting go of certain details.  It feels like compromise and sacrifice now, but it’s actually the best decision today.  Sometimes doing what you thought of as most right isn’t good enough.

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4 Responses to “When right is not good enough”

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  1. Tim Koelkebeck

    I definitely struggle with this sometimes. Perfection is a string of 5-minute actions: double-check those numbers, make these margins better, reword that paragraph. It’s so easy to justify a 5 minute perfection, but they all add up, and often what seems like a 5-minute touch-up takes much longer.

    Another form of the problem is excessive learning or researching rather than just going with what you know, even if you have a hunch that you could be doing it a better way.

  2. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Tim. What always fascinates me is that often times there IS a lot of room for improvement in our work…but that extra two hours we spend usually just makes it a tiny bit better. In other words, when we suck at something, we’re just going to suck a little less trying harder. And when we’re amazing at something, we’re not going to be that much more amazing with that extra time.

    The real payoff comes from doing similar things over time and raising the bar…not in the tiny details in the present.

    I’m sure I don’t always follow this approach, but I think following it more would give me a lot of payback.

  3. John D

    I very much agree filtering out garbage is definitely a critical skill, otherwise so much time is wasted on things that don’t help you.

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