Why Perfect and Great are not the same thing

I’ve just started an online class on Creativity, Innovation and Change with Coursera. The purpose of the course is not just to learn about what creativity, innovation and change are, but for students to put projects of their own into action.

But what if?

Of course, pretty much as soon as you have an idea for something new or different, your second thought tends to be about all the things that might go wrong. Already a few people are asking on the class forums about how other students overcome their fear of not being good enough and the fixation with getting everything ‘just-so’ that paralyses many an innovator and project. It seems to be quite a common occurrence too. In fact, there are whole chapters in books by Seth Godin, such as Linchpin and The Dip that specifically focus on the difference between ‘perfect’ and ‘good enough’. The thing is though, sometimes, hearing the advice or reading the words, you can appreciate the information on an intellectual level but it’s not always enough. You have to feel it to really understand.

A visit to the museum

For me, the moment where I really understood the difference between great and perfect was on a recent visit to the Ashmoleon Museum in Oxford. I was strolling through the galleries of beautiful paintings, slightly in awe of the fact that us, the general public were being trusted to get up close to this real art, when I saw this painting:

Landscape with Ascanius shooting the stag of Sylvia - by Claude Lorrain

Landscape with Ascanius shooting the stag of Sylvia – by Claude Lorrain

As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but notice the hunter with his bow aimed at the deer across the river. Something looked a bit funny about it. I stepped closer and squinted to get a good look at the detail. Yes, that was it. If you got right up close and looked at the hunter, his posture was all wrong – his body was unfeasibly long and he was twisted into an impossible position. He was a basic anatomical anomaly, yet here the painting was, hanging in a famous gallery!

I stepped away again and took in the painting from a short distance – the sweep of the sky, the trees bending in the wind and the startled look of the stag, trapped at last. And then I realised. Even though the hunter wasn’t perfect, he didn’t detract from the beauty of the scene as a whole. Even though the artist was probably kicking himself at how it had turned out, the final piece was still great – still impressive enough to be hanging in a gallery, some 400 years later for people’s entertainment.

It may not have been perfect, but it was good enough!

I’m going to keep Claude Lorrain in mind when I feel that wobble of worry in future. I hope it will help to keep me on course in the face of my doubts.

What tips and tricks do you use to keep yourself pushing on through self-doubt?


I love all things fantasy, from fiction to films to games. Mostly books though. I also love cooking and plus size fashion. Find recommendations for great fantasy reads and general fangirling here! If you want to get in touch with me, the quickest way is by Twitter @dorristheloris

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Posted in reviews, Writing

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