Better – Not Perfect

By Tom Abts





The other day I was talking to a local PGA teaching pro. He’s a smart guy and I always enjoy his stories and insights. He gets it. Doesn’t get caught up in the frills – he has a real sense for the bottom line. And what really makes him a good instructor, is that he can figure how to get a student to that bottom line.

He’s also figured it out for his own game. He’s a very good player. And gets better every year. I want to emphasize that point… he gets better every year. That’s a rare thing… not just in golf, but in anything.

Too often we try to make the big jump to “perfect,” it doesn’t happen, so we quit.

There’s an old saying that I love, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Think about that. Not “bad” is the enemy of good but it’s “perfect.” People are not perfect. Life is not perfect. But, we can get “better.”

We’ve all been around nitpickers. All they see are the flaws – no matter how small – they focus on the flaws. Gee, what a talent! Obviously, I’m kidding. That takes zero talent or awareness. Understanding how things work and why a flaw may be part of the picture takes a lot more insight.

For example, someone’s golf swing might have a little too much lateral motion, but they need it to get movement in their swing because they aren’t very flexible – but their swing gets them in the proper position to hit the golf ball. A golf course might have some bad spots on the course, but 95% is well-maintained and the superintendent doesn’t have a giant staff because his budget isn’t huge because the course doesn’t charge $200 a round.

The nitpicker/perfectionist doesn’t see the picture – just focuses in with the microscope to find flaws. Micromanaging is not a skill.

Am I defending bad business, or faulty golf swings, etc.? Not at all. I’m trying to put things in perspective.

And, I’m trying bring up how destructive that perfectionist attitude is. Not just to everyone and everything around a “perfectionist,” but especially to themselves. Being a perfectionist is debilitating. They can’t attempt anything because they can’t do it perfectly.

Many years ago when my sons were in Little League one son was making the change from a season of “Coach Pitch,” where the coach would lob the pitch into where the kid wanted it. The next year was completely different, now the pitcher was trying get the batter to strike out – not to hit the ball. Also, these pitchers were kids and usually a little wild – not exactly their coach lobbing it into the perfect spot.

So, the Head Coach asked me to be the Batting Coach. (A move he soon regretted!) When we would scrimmage between ourselves the kids wouldn’t swing the bat. They all wanted to “walk.” It got so bad that I insisted that they swing at EVERY pitch. You should have seen those first few games – kids swinging at balls over their head, or in the dirt, etc., and usually everyone striking out at every at bat. The parents went crazy. I kept asking the Head Coach to hang-in-there with me. He did. Wow.

Well, the season had two divisions: First Half and Second Half. We finished dead-last in the First Half. However, we never lost a game in the Second Half. We could hit. By swinging at every pitch, the kids learned how to get the bat on the ball. After they became good aggressive hitters, I let them choose when to swing. Then they got really good. And, they couldn’t wait for their turn to go to bat. Did every kid get a hit every time at bat? Of course not, but now they loved playing baseball. They could deal with the fear of failure at the plate.

There’s even a happy ending to this story. At the end of the season, the First Half champs played the Second Half champs. We won – handedly. The other team had won the First Half because they always walked. They never learned how to hit. Well, not just did we win, our kids were full of energy and confident. The other team was just a bunch of scared kids. It wasn’t pretty.

Before I end this, I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating recklessness. Everything is risk/reward – reckless is just plain dumb. And perfectionism is also dumb – though it’s usually accompanied with a smug attitude – what a combination.

The goal is “better,” not “perfect.” We can get better. It’s a constant process. Usually just baby steps.

But it sure beats sitting on the side-lines of life and just pointing out everyone’s and everything’s flaws.

It’s all about “better,” not “perfect.”