Good is Not Enough

In 1988 or ’89, when I was teaching high school and overseeing the student government, we came up with a phrase for spirit week: Good is not enough. We meant to share it as motivation– to encourage students to do more, try harder, reach higher. Even the football team yelled it during warm-ups before games.

I think about my own work now and ponder the impact of those words. If good is not enough, then nothing can be shared unless it is great. Perfect. No blemishes.

I struggle with that because I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about failure and how important it is to fail well. By that, I mean to take risks, push myself. And if that means something doesn’t work, that’s fine. I’ll learn from it and move on. Yet, sharing mistakes or work that isn’t quite there is risky, too. What will people think?

Photographer Donna Hopkins addressed this in a recent blog post, and I found myself nodding along as I read:

There will always be those who discount my work, places that make me fearful, and things that stir up doubt and insecurity. And this is why mentors are important. These are the people I respect, and I see something in their life and work that can help me to take the next steps.

I absolutely love her quote from photographer Henry Lohmeyer :

It’s not our work at its best that begs to be heard, it’s our glorious falters, our enormous mistakes and it’s our honest brokenness that wants to be heard. It’s not our work that we’re showing, it’s ourselves and we deserve noting.

Working hard, learning more, trying again–these are traits that will help me improve my work. But being honest in the process and not simply showing shiny, pretty results makes the journey real.