This is an aphorism that is commonly attributed to Voltaire, who quoted an Italian proverb in his Dictionnaire philosophique in 1770.
The idea is simple: if you keep looking for something that is perfect, you will end up rejecting what is good enough. There is also the concept of the Nirvana Fallacy, which amounts to comparing perfect, unrealizable ideal situations to something that actually exists.
This is something which we face with the investors in our business very regularly. Everybody wants to time the equity market perfectly, to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. Most people will not buy because they feel markets are too expensive, later having regret of having missed out on the rally and then will start waiting for another correction not realizing that a new cycle has started and the old lows may never be touched again.
As the old saying goes, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Trying to make something perfect can actually prevent us from making it just good. Perfection in its elusive glory is like a unicorn. Sure, it sounds great, but who’s actually seen one? I’d rather ride a real horse than wait for an imagined unicorn.
Perfection can be a good thing: After all, that drive can push people to do great things. But it has a dark side, too. The challenge of “perfection” can intimidate people so they don’t even try. If perfection is the goal, yet unattainable, what’s the point?
So, if you can’t achieve perfection, don’t sweat it. Go for good instead. Gretchen Rubin described it this way:
“Instead of pushing yourself to an impossible ‘perfect,’ and therefore getting nowhere, accept ‘good.’ Many things worth doing are worth doing badly.”
You’re capable of amazing things. But unless you let go of the idea of perfection, you’ll have a hard time achieving those amazing things.
The pursuit of perfection is noble, but unless we’re willing to settle for “good,” we may have to settle for nothing at all. It is better to strive for progress than perfection and stay blessed forever.