You probably went to school – the elementary school first, then to higher levels. You played with friends and you did what teachers told you to do – drawing pictures and writing words on papers. They put letters on your assignments and gave you stickers and you didn’t really care which ones those were.
Sometimes, you didn’t finish the picture. Sometimes your parents weren’t happy with the letters the teachers put on your papers. It didn’t matter that much to you.
Gradually though, you started to understand that some letters were better than others. A was better than B, which was better than C and so on. You learned which letters your parents and teachers liked to see and which ones disappointed them. And if you’re anything like me, you got a certain sense of pride in getting the “better” letters – especially if they were better than others in your class.
You heard that B’s and C’s (in the American system – 10’s/20 or 3/5 in some other systems) were just fine. They meant you basically got the material, that you passed. But for most of us, we were taught that passing was not enough. Somewhere along the line, we were taught the nuanced differences between A and A+. Somewhere along the line, we were taught that Exceeds Expectations is the expectation.
We imagined that these letters would be the steps that would take us upward through academia and onto jobs. On to real life. All the while, each step must be the best. Each one, an A+, always ahead of expectations.
Naturally, this also meant that in sports, in hobbies we had to exceed as well – after all, we needed to show leadership and excellence, first for colleges, then for prospective employers. How much was enough? There was always the certainty that a better, more qualified person was ready to take your place. There was no enough.
To do more, time had to be balanced more. More hacks. More efficiency. Not only was your time not enough – you weren’t doing enough with the time that you did have. Never enough.
And so, you find yourself on the other side of a big milestone age – maybe 25, or 35, or 45 – and it is all still not enough. Not enough time to be everything you know you could be. Not enough energy to give to it all. And even when you sit down to create – to be the artist you are in your heart, you whisper do yourself “I’m not enough. I’m not good enough. What I will make is not good enough.”
Except that’s wrong.
And something has been wrong for a long time now, but where? And how?
Each time you have chased that higher goal, that more distant horizon, you have been as Tantalus of Greek legend: reaching for beautiful things that always, always just barely elude your grasp – moved by unseen forces. And in response, as you’ve reached out for all those things, as you’ve run back and forth in every direction, you have worn yourself out and feel you have reached nowhere.
It’s time to reconsider.
Reconsider good enough.
That project at work? It can be good enough without spending every waking hour on it, neglecting your family in the process. That story in your mind? The first draft you write will be good enough for a first draft.
Your ideas are good enough.
Your efforts, made in good faith, are good enough.
You owe it to yourself to look around and say this is good enough. And most often – it will be, and then some.
It would be easy to step back here and to answer by saying “Everything written up to now just sounds like you’re settling. Like you’re giving up and no longer pursuing the best. You have to sacrifice to have the best, to be the best!”
And sure – sacrifice is important. You cannot have something for nothing. But if the idea that everything you do, everything you make must always be original, exceptional, ground-breaking, you will likely find yourself hesitating…and hesitating. Never creating – either because you’re still waiting for that perfect idea, or worse, terrified that the perfect idea will turn to slop in your hands as you begin to work on it. That terror won’t just keep you from perfection – it will keep you from starting anything at all.
But when you say “I am enough – my work is enough,” the doubts can be pushed back and you will have the strength to travel the paths you choose and create the art that speaks to you.
Is it the greatest? That is is for others to judge but it no longer matters to you.
Because for you – it is enough.