9.20.2011

good, better, best

One of my former bosses once told me, "perfection is an obstacle to progress." To a certain extent, I have come to agree with this statement. Constant iteration of a single item in pursuit of the 'perfect' object means, effectively, that this item is never finished or (in some cases) ever brought to a useable condition. The idea that the NEXT instance of the item will be better than the last should not be ignored, however. There is no reason not to incorporate improvements in material, technique, or functionality when creating subsequent renditions.

I've also been battered about the head and neck with "The 3-Foot Rule". This states that if it looks OK from 3' away, it's good enough. This philosophy I have more of a problem with, as 'good enough' is a purely subjective measure. Also, the viewing conditions and eyesight of the beholder will vary, especially if the item in question is in any way portable or subject to public scrutiny. I maintain that, in order for it to look good at 3', it had better stand up well to even closer examination. We have no scale-sized atmospheric haze to soften the edges and dull the colours no matter how small we make our models, and the camera tells no lies.

'Good enough' is, at best, a sliding scale. Certainly something that was good enough when you were a relatively unskilled teen is not the same as good enough when you are a more experienced person? Surely no one pursues sport or games of skill with the battle cry, "Only as good as I did last time!" For my own part, I try to learn something from each endeavour that can be applied to future endeavours. Sometimes I have to look pretty close at what I've done to get a useful lesson out of it, but it's always in there - somewhere.

There is a sense of personal achievement in hobby pursuits that is often sadly lacking in most daily occupations and, it must be said, we need all the positive feedback we can get. Exercising the hands & the brain, shaping raw materials into finished objects that delight & inspire, teaching &/or learning new skills, possibly even creating a little order from the chaos - all laudable ways to spend time and energy - a lot of the experience can be transferred to other areas of your life in a beneficial manner.

However, if the goal of a pursuit is merely to kill some time, then you might as well have someone nail your box shut now and get it over with.

2 comments:

Peppergroyne said...

Should the measure be "Have I done the best I can" rather than any other rule?
Good enough will always be subjective ... not only to your skills/measures, but to anyone else ... but even 'perfection' is a subjective measure. I am currently not a fan of the "3' Guide" for the same reasons you outlined. My preference at the moment is to work out if I did as good a job as I could with tools and skills in my kit. If not, then do better :)

bobcatt said...

Exactly, Gordon. "Did I do the best I can?" is a great measuring stick. As you work on each new task, you will get a little better at one of more aspects. So the most recent thing you've built will be better in some way than the first thing you built. If you want to really qualify the question, then "Did I do the best I can with the tools, materials, and information available to me?" is even easier to answer. While you cannot literally make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you can still make a purse. :-)