Great versus Good-Enough


A colleague of mine sent an email with a link to an article that appeared in the New York Times entitled: “The Good-Enough Life: The desire for greatness can be an obstacle to our own potential” by Avram Alpert.  After reading the article I was motivated to respond with the following:


Worldview of Scarcity

Worldviews provide the framework for how we interpret the world around us and how we see ourselves. Paradoxically, the need to be great comes from a worldview of scarcity which is based on the assumption that anything of value is in short supply. This creates a deficit perspective, and a “dog eat dog” way of viewing the world. Its survival of the fittest mentality creates a personal sense of deficiency and insignificance.

Achieving, setting high goals, and doing your best are all worthwhile, but when “good” becomes “great” through absolute thinking, it becomes a reflection of extreme perfectionism which is a setup for failure. It personally positions us to live on an emotional roller coaster by having us feel that we are great when we are one  hundred percent successful and losers when not achieving greatness. The fact is, that no one can be great at everything, all of the time.

Jim Collins in his book Good To Great mentions 11 companies in different industries that were examples of being “great.” However, after 10 years, here is the performance record of these 11 “great” companies:


  1. Abbott Laboratories → Stock up 0%
  2. Circuit City → Bankrupt
  3. Fannie Mae → Placed in conservatorship
  4. Gillette → Bought by P&G
  5. Kimberly-Clark → Stock up 1%
  6. Kroger → Stock up 0%
  7. Nucor → Stock up 4-fold
  8. Philip Morris → Stock down 20%
  9. Pitney Bowes → Stock down 20%
  10. Walgreens → Stock up 0%
  11. Wells Fargo → Stock up 0%


Worldview of Sufficiency

The perspective of good-enough reflects the worldview of sufficiency in the balanced mental paradigm which resides at the top level on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that of transcendence. The worldview of sufficiency is based on the scientific fact that the universe is the model of efficiency, and applies a middle way approach between having too much and not enough. The position of good-enough fosters a personal sustainable lifestyle.

The foundational assumption of the worldview of sufficiency is based on trust that allows us to expect that the right person, the right thing, the right “whatever” will emerge at the right time. The perspective of good-enough removes the burden of greatness since we no longer need to prove to ourselves that we are good enough.

The perspective of good-enough is reflected in the commitment to do your very best, totally invest your time and energy in what you do and the reassurance that if you don’t reach the absolute level of greatness, it O.K. Move on. The perspective of good-enough provides a sense of satisfaction in knowing you did your very best and a sense of acceptance, which is the greatest gift that you can give yourself.  The worldview of sufficiency and its corresponding perspective of good-enough was captured by Gandhi when he wrote that: “the Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs but not every man’s greed.”

If you would like to know more about the worldview of sufficiency at the transcendent level on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, go to Learn Over Lunch Online Semester Course


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