Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

A really smart guy by the name of R.C. Trench said this:

“The best is oftentimes the enemy of the good; and many a good book has remained unwritten… because there floated before the mind’s eye the ideal of a better or a best.”


Guess when he wrote this—1861, yup, way back the same year the Civil War started. Author Rosanne Bane started off a recent blog post with this quote, driving home the point that this is not a new problem. It is a sentiment and dare I say, EXCUSE, that I hear so many times. In fact, I’ve even succumbed to it myself. Want to make progress toward an important goal? Insisting on perfection is not the way to do it.

Here’s the “Reader’s Digest” version of Bane’s article. If you’d like to read the entire thing (highly recommended), here’s the link:


She makes the point that sometimes it is crucial that you do your best, especially if you’re performing brain surgery, flying a plane or maybe parenting a two year old.

However, we can be

Paralyzed by perfection


Bane says:

“If you refuse to accept good enough, you can’t move on. If you make writing a matter of “I’ll do my best or do nothing,” you’ll end up doing nothing most of the time because you simply can’t be your best all the time (or even most of the time). If you were your best all the time, by definition, that would just be your average.

You can’t let perfectionism get in the way. Well actually, you can – it’s just not effective or satisfying to let it get in your way. I truly wish I’d been more vulnerable, taken more risks, made more mistakes, and fallen on my face a lot more often earlier in my career. But with luck and persistence, I can do that now.”


This  Point of Paralysis  is exactly the spot where many folks get stuck in thinking about saving their family stories. You know you want to do it, you’re afraid of the scope of the job, you’re not sure where to start, you don’t consider yourself a writer, you’ll do it someday, etc.


Bane’s takeaway,

“…first ideas don’t have to be brilliant; they only have to be good enough to give you a place to move on from.”


Let me break it down:

A two hour oral history is a small time commitment capturing the irreplaceable voice of the person you love– timbre, nuance, humor, expressions, life experience.

A four hour oral history is a small time commitment—accomplishing all of the above and drawing out more stories, more unique humanity.

An entire series of life history interviews is a small time commitment—about 12 hours. It works because of the guided, skilled nature of the interviewer, focused on drawing out and enhancing the innate story telling skills we all possess as human beings. And did I mention it’s fun?

Here’s the neat thing–You don’t even have to be able to write! I will talk you through your story and write it up for you. Voila!


In the amount of time it takes to watch a movie or follow a season of your favorite TV show you could make a life history project happen for someone you love.


Is this your year? Break past the paralysis point and give me a call, I’d be delighted to help you get started.



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    Karen Ray

    Address: 331 Bristol Avenue, Las Cruces, NM, 88001

    Phone: 575-323-1048