Last week I tried something a little lighter and more links and videos. It didn’t work for me. Early in any business career you’ll hear “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” or the “80–20 rule.” Not familiar with that one? If someone else can do it 80% as well as you think you can do it, delegate it. The idea that too often businesses or ideas are paralyzed by perfection had lead to this movement of just do the work and then fix it on the fly. Not a bad idea because it is true that too many people don’t do the thing or don’t put their creativity on display. On the other hand, good enough for too long is just mediocrity.
Last week I read over my Saturday Cup of Joe and thought its “good enough.” Good enough has been good enough for a while. That’s when it starts to become a problem. Good enough is exactly that when the business or the idea is failing to launch. Good enough is a trap when it becomes an excuse not to do the work.
I want to write each week. That’s what I love about the Saturday Cup of Joe. Some weeks, it’s just off. Send it “good enough” or don’t send it at all? Or sleep? In HBO’s The Defiant Ones, there are stories of Bruce and Bono. Bruce, on a holiday weekend, recording over and over until the sound is just right. Staying up late, recording again. Again. The producer, Jimmy Iovine, the only one willing to stay on the board late into the night until Bruce was happy. Same story with Jimmy and Bono. Unreasonable expectations.
Last week I thought “good enough” was good enough to justify week 205. I was thinking about Saturday Cup of Joe like a company or a product. What’s the difference? Good enough is just that for businesses that do not have an ending (or, at least, are not supposed to). The idea of an on-going concern is to put a product or service into the world and continue to improve. The idea of a creative work is to put the best version of what’s in your head into the world and then it’s over. It’s out of your control.
Creativity that’s good enough sucks.
I don’t know why it took me 205 weeks to understand it. I know the stories of Kanye West. So obsessed with getting it right that he’s known to keep working on an album even after it’s been released. What if that’s what it takes to be successful and good enough is not enough? How did you solve for it?
Lower your expectations of your work or the reception for your work.
Shift your focus from purity to balance. Meaning the purity of the expression of the idea is secondary or becomes less important than the ability to balance the practice of expression with a “normal” life.
We’re all working somewhere on that continuum.
Last week, I wrote about Cal Ripken’s swing. Thank you, everyone, who wrote in about baseball and bats. I think it’s clear there’s something even more off in Spring without baseball. Cal Ripken is the definition of consistency — playing the most consecutive games in baseball history. Yet, his swing changed several times throughout his career. He’d stand a slightly different way. He’d hold his bat at a different angle.
The changes kept Ripken fresh. Same game, new approach.
Change keeps an organization, like an athlete, ahead of stagnation.
At Quicken Loans it’s often said, the only constant is change.
Fitness is the same. You might be doing competitive obstacle courses at one point in your life, or power walking or stationary bike or triathlons. There are some who practice a single form of exercise their whole lives. Most people go through cycles. Recognize plateaus and evolve. Or sometimes just make a change to ensure the next step is the right one.
As a third year law student I worked at a law firm, to confirm that I didn’t want to join a firm as my first job. That turned out to change the course of my life. My intent was to add law firm experience to my resume (I had interned in the NYPD’s Legal Bureau as a 1L instead of vying for a summer associate spot in a law firm). I thought a semester working at a law firm would confirm that I never wanted to work at a firm. I landed a great spot at prestigious firm in Hartford. I was assigned to consumer protection and asked to research and brief the financial services clients on a new piece of legislation — Dodd-Frank Act. Over the course of that semester, I learned everything about Dodd-Frank. Upon graduation I worked a bit at the firm finishing up on a contract basis. At the time, no one was hiring lawyers. Even summer associates were having their offers rescinded. Yet, the mortgage industry needed consumer protection attorneys to implement Dodd-Frank compliance.
Through a Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) post and a mutual contact, I interviewed for what would become my first lawyer job — Compliance Attorney at Norcom Mortgage & Insurance. Since then, I’ve continued to try to evolve.
Recognize plateaus and push further. The game is the same, the swing changes.
Whether it is your work, your creative outlet or personal development, how do you recognize plateaus? Cal Ripken was at the top of his game. Yet, he was able to recognize even a minor plateau. Bruce, Bono and Kanye pushed and pushed and pushed to evolve. The constant drive.
One of my favorite pieces of sports writing is an essay titled, Holy Ground by Wright Thompson. Whether because it was supposed to be the Masters last week or some other wonderful coincidence, I used an Audible credit on one of Wright’s books. I’m listening to The Cost of These Dreams, read by the author. I’m really enjoying it. Incredible. Other than a new forward, it is a collection of Thompson’s essays. Michael Jordan. Leo Messi. Urban Meyer. Greatness. Darkness. Complexity. There was the story of the 1962 Ole Miss football team that was an incredible exploration of race, competition, and history. Oxford, MS in 1962 reminded me of pockets of the Internet in 2020.
The common thread between greatness whether found in Cal Ripken’s approach, Bruce Springsteen’s dedication, or Michael Jordan’s attitude is relentlessness. No. such. thing. as. good. enough.
Where does that leave us?
Well, for me, I’m asking for latitude in writing Saturday Cup of Joe each week. I’m not sure what that means. It doesn’t mean not sending it out each week. It means trying a different swing. Looking for greatness. What does greatness mean to you? What’s yours?
How will you define it?
I noticed how many brands sent emails immediately following the work-from-home plans offering their COVID-19 preparations and safe guards. Soon after, the “we’re all in this together” or “we’ll get through this together” ads began. Saturday Night Live came back on the air with SNL At Home last week. During the show I saw several “we’ll get through this together” commercials. Banks. Insurance companies. Soft drinks.
I spent several days thinking about what that means. I thought about whether it works or should work. I thought about whether there are better ways to convey compassion and connection. Admittedly, I thought about how it didn’t make much sense or ring true…true as authentic.
Then I said it. I was recording an interview for our YouTube series to our mortgage broker partners. After the final response, I found myself saying “we’re all in this together.” What!
It was in there somewhere, bouncing around in my mind, and it just came out.
“We’re all in this together.”
I’m a cliché and that’s ok.
At least I know I’m in good company.
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
On Friday afternoon President Trump tweeted: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and my immediate thought was of high school soccer. I know, non sequitur. Our rival, Bible Baptist, used to play the roughest and dirtiest form of soccer. Constantly kicking our ankles, shoving, and talking shit; while the name Bible Baptist indicates otherwise, they were not sportsmen. I always struggled playing them because I was constantly getting called for retailing against their players. They commit a foul quickly at the beginning of a play, the ref wouldn’t see it and I’d push back, often literally. The result was a foul on me.
Oldest trick in the book.
“Come on, ref, you can’t see anything.” I’d yell.
In soccer it’s called dissent. Talking back to the ref.
I used to leave those games feeling so frustrated and upset. Win or lose what made me mad was the unfairness of it. “It isn’t right!” I’d say to no one in particular. To this day, I resent that school.
I felt that feeling again this week.
On Friday, when President Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” I could not understand the frustration inside from that one simple tweet.
Then it occurred to me, I know this feeling.
Unfairness. Intellectual dishonesty. Poor sportsmanship.
Regardless of which party you belong to, you have a decision to make. Attempt objectivity and intellectual consistency or win-at-all-costs regardless of whether the issue forces a contradiction in belief(s).
Examples of the latter camp would be Senators like McConnell and Schumer. (Mitch McConnell has long been my least favorite pol because of his willingness to criticize the Washington Establishment while spending 36 years in the Senate! He lacks any coherent belief system or guiding principles other than win the specific political battle at hand. Winning, not defined by what’s best for Kentucky or America but his position in the Senate. I welcome evidence to the contrary but I’ve yet to see it. There are examples on both sides as I’ve said. But I digress).
In the former camp, the intellectually honest, are names like Sen Ted Cruz and former President Obama. Debate whether you agree with their particular policy choices all day long, but these leaders attempt to stay consistent in their approach. Everyone fails in this category from time to time, me especially, but you see my point.
The individuals that anger me the most are those that claim the so-called high ground of objectivity and consistency but actually employ those (all too familiar) win-at-all-costs tactics.
These are the high school athletes goading you into a foul with fouls of their own, then whining to the ref about your retaliation. Pointing our your every misstep. Quickly taking a dive and drawing the foul without actually being touched. This is what happened in Michigan this week.
Michiganders exercising their right to protest — a right that I embrace and celebrate. Gathered in Lansing, they argued for the right to choose. The right to choose to go back to work. The right to choose to leave their home. The right to choose their own risk tolerance.
This right, if exercised, would subject everyone to health risk for the collective good — economic stability.
An acknowledgement of the need to sacrifice ones health or others health for the sake of a greater good — economic opportunity — struck me as complicated. For instance, much of what gets called “socialism” in today’s political environment is an individual sacrifice for the greater good.
In Michigan this week, it was portrayed or planned as individual liberty exercised for the greater economic good. Non-ironically, the Governor was attacked for prioritizing health over economic liberty. Don’t let words fool you. This was not about actual liberty, physical liberty, because if it was, those protesters would have been restricted from even organizing in Lansing in the first place. We’re free to move around. Economic liberty — keeping a place of business open — has been restricted. The restriction imposed by state & local governments.
State and local government, long the preferred source of authority, among conservatives and libertarians, is now being attacked in favor of broad, federal power.
The mix up of categories here — choice, smaller government, individual liberty and collective good — is fascinating. Labeling political parties or trying to identify allies in an all-or-nothing litmus test seems impossible. Yet we try and try every day on Twitter and every night on cable news.
There are so many categories in modern life getting blurry — race and gender included — but many others too — what is comedy? what is hip hop or country music? what is marketing? In politics, we’ve gone the other way. The ONLY thing that seems to matter is the label. Not even what the actual idea is. Just the label.
Why is evaluating an idea less important than the source of the idea?
Why is that a threat to ideology, identity or loyalty?
I don’t get it.
Is there no room in ideology for “benefit of the doubt”?
A benefit of the doubt that considers first the merits of the thing. A benefit of the doubt that puts a wide lens on the problem. A benefit of the doubt that leads someone toward silver linings instead of name-calling and accusation.
I began to come to terms, this week, with the reality that I need to get over it.
Just like I was told to get over it — it’s just a game — many of you may be thinking “what’s the big deal?” It doesn’t matter that much.
The only problem is that it still bugs me. And I cannot get over it. So I write about fairness and consistency and honor. Writing about it ensures that I don’t find myself 16 years later still resenting it.
Dr. Fauci is a guy who got some attention this week. Not unlike the last few weeks, but this week #FireFauci trended, briefly, on Twitter by a bunch of people who cannot recognize a silver lining or offer a benefit of the doubt. One of the articles on Dr. Fauci quoted a friend who said when dealing with politicians, he relies on the pseudo-Latin expression illegitimi non carborundum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
“Your first impulse should always be to find the evidence that disconfirms your most cherished beliefs and those of others. That is true science.” — Robert Greene
Continued success and continue to answer well,