Why “Good Enough” Isn’t Good Enough

One night back in high school, I was working on a rough draft of a paper. I had been working on this paper for awhile and was sick and tired of hammering away. How much longer did this need to go on? I read it over, thought that it was “good enough,” and headed to bed.

A week later, my teacher asked me to stay after class. “Vik,” she said, “What happened here? This was far from your best work. I know that it was only a rough draft, but I know you could have done much better.”

I had a good relationship with this teacher and I decided to be honest. “Well, I really just thought it was good enough for the time being…I just figured I’d fix it up later.”

She looked at me. “Vik, there’s something you should know. When you think something is good enough, it probably isn’t. Chances are that you can really make it better. Saying ‘good enough’ is simply a way for you to justify it…to make it seem ok when you don’t feel like putting your best foot forward.”

I was a little taken aback at first. My teenage instincts kicked in. After all, I’d always done well in the class, so why was she picking on me?

But the more I thought it, the more I realized that she was absolutely right. I could have done much better, and I was just making excuses. Moreover, I had lost a huge opportunity to get feedback on my work so far, which would prevent my final paper from being as good as it could be.

Since then, I’ve noticed that all wealthy individuals strive to be something beyond “good enough.” They aim to excel; to be the best in the world at whatever they do. Sure, they might not make it, but that desire to push beyond minimum standards is what has made them the big successes that they are.

A living example of this is Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of Zappos.com. In the 1990s, Hsieh was another bright-eyed Harvard graduate who wanted to change the world. A few years out of school, he founded his first company, an ad network called LinkExchange.

The company grew rapidly during the dot-com boom, and in 1998, Microsoft bought LinkExchange for $265 million.

All of a sudden, Hsieh was a 20-something multimillionaire. He never had to work another day in his life. It would have been easy to just retire on a beach somewhere.

But to Hsieh, that simply wasn't good enough.

A few years later, Hsieh took over as CEO of Zappos, an ailing online shoe retailer. Over the next several years, Hsieh built one of the most positive, productive company cultures of any company in the world. Zappos was routinely listed in publications as one of the best places to world. In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos for one billion dollars.

But Hsieh still wasn't done. Last year, he published Delivering Happiness, an instant bestseller that focused on his entrepreneurial journey, and the lessons he learnt along the way. Unlike many millionaire authors, Hsieh actually wrote the book himself, making it a personal statement that would inspire millions of people to pursue positive impact.

I had the privilege of seeing Hsieh speak a few months ago at a private event. Even with all his success, he still carries himself with the utmost humility, and acknowledges that there were many factors that account for his success.

It's because he knows that no matter what he does, it will never be "good enough."

And that's what drives him to succeed.

Have you ever felt that something was "good enough?" How did you overcome the feeling?

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