January 30, 2008
You may think of Steve Martin as a stereotypical family friendly comedian today-- the center of saccharine movies like Parenthood and Father of the Bride. But it wasn't always this way. Steve hit his stride in the early 80's. At that time, I don't think there were any popular comedians exploring the ragged edge of humor in quite the same way Steve Martin was. I'll forever remember finding a copy of his book Cruel Shoes as an impressionable teenager. It's a collection of very strange short stories. At my tender young age, I had certainly never read anything like it. It's hard to explain. Read for yourself. Here's the complete text of the eponymous Cruel Shoes short story:
Anna knew she had to have some new shoes today, and Carlo had helped her try on every pair in the store. Carlo spoke wearily, "Well, that's every pair of shoes in the place."
"Oh, you must have one more pair ..."
"No, not one more pair...Well, we have the cruel shoes, but no one would want..."
Anna interrupted, "Oh yes, let me see the cruel shoes!"
Carlo looked incredulous. "No, Anna, you don't understand, you see, the cruel shoes are..."
Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, then returned with an ordinary shoebox. He opened the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But these were not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angle turn with seperate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place. Carlo spoke hesitantly, "...Now you see why...they're not fit for humans..."
"Put them on me."
"Put them on me!"
Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes.
The screams were incredible.
Anna crawled to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.
"I like them."
She paid Carlo and crawled out of the store into the street.
Later that day, Carlo was overheard saying to a new customer, "Well, that's every shoe in the place. Unless, of course, you'd like to try the cruel shoes."
Funny, yes, but also disturbing-- you feel vaguely uncomfortable while laughing at Cruel Shoes. That awkward feeling is what makes Steve's humor so subversive and thought provoking. I previously cited my lifelong fascination with the subversive humor of Mad Magazine, and I'd hold Steve Martin's brand of strange, experimental comedy right up there next to it. I distinctly remember seeing The Jerk in 1979. I could only make sense of about half of it at the time, but the half I did understand blew my young mind. I've been slowly deciphering the genius of this Steve Martin movie ever since.
In a recent interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Steve explains some of the philosophy behind his unique comedy. It's a fantastic article, but one particular passage stood out:
At the end of my closing-night show at the Troubadour, I stood onstage and took out five bananas. I peeled them, put one on my head, one in each pocket and squeezed one in each hand. Then I read the last line of my latest bad review: "Sharing the bill with Poco this week is comedian Steve Martin ... his 25-minute routine failed to establish any comic identity that would make the audience remember him or the material." Then I walked off the stage.
The consistent work enhanced my act. I learned a lesson: it was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical: like lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the circumstances.
Steve's insistence that greatness isn't something you can count on, or even something you should strive for, resonates deeply for me. Greatness is far too difficult, too abstract, too daunting. Being good-- consistently good-- is the real goal, and that takes hard work and discipline. Being good-- that's something concrete you can roll up your sleeves and accomplish. Forget greatness. Can we even define what greatness truly is? Like Steve Martin, you become great through applying yourself at being reliably good, night after night, venue after venue, time after time.
Voltaire originally said better is the enemy of good; at the risk of creating another snowclone, Steve's advice is essentially that great is the enemy of good. It's not exactly a message about software development, but it strongly reminds me of worse is better, at least from where I'm sitting. There's a fascinating history behind this classic essay that I glossed over in my original post on the topic. After doing a bit more research, I found that Richard Gabriel wrote a detailed article explaining the rich history of worse is better:
The concept known as "worse is better" holds that in software making (and perhaps in other arenas as well) it is better to start with a minimal creation and grow it as needed. Christopher Alexander might call this "piecemeal growth." This is the story of the evolution of that concept.
From 1984 until 1994 I had a Lisp company called "Lucid, Inc." In 1989 it was clear that the Lisp business was not going well, partly because the AI companies were floundering and partly because those AI companies were starting to blame Lisp and its implementations for the failures of AI. One day in Spring 1989, I was sitting out on the Lucid porch with some of the hackers, and someone asked me why I thought people believed C and Unix were better than Lisp. I jokingly answered, "because, well, worse is better." We laughed over it for a while as I tried to make up an argument for why something clearly lousy could be good.
The idea being, of course, that enough goodness slowly accreted over time usually trumps any epic (and usually ill-fated) plans to create any brand new great thing. I completely agree, and I think history bears this lesson out a hundredfold. But even the original author, Richard Gabriel, can't decide if worse really is better. He's written a slew of pro and con articles over the years, vacillating back and forth, playing Devil's Advocate to his own position, representing both the "worse" and "better" sides in equal measure:
Richard's final statement on the matter is a bit of a cop out: decide for yourselves. I'm not sure if worse is better or not. Personally, I'm inclined to follow Steve Martin's advice here: strive to be consistently good, and the greatness takes care of itself.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I read Steve Martin's new book Born Standing Up and there are plenty of insights both personal and professional. Read it if only for the story of Steve's relationship with his father.
Professionally Steve toughed it out as a stand up comic for 12 years (more if you count his childhood) and honed his craft. Almost as a soon as he reached the pinnacle of success as a comic he realized he couldn't be a stand up comic anymore mostly because his fame made it impossible to do "real" stand up. I think there are some parallels to the point where programmers and designers find themselves becoming software architects and art directors.
This is crazy. Last night my feet were hurting and I told my wife the story of "The Cruel Shoes". I kid you not! What are the chances of it appearing in my reading the very next day?
I don't get why that "cruel shoes" story is funny. Somebody care to explain it?
Steve Martin might be successful, but he isn't funny and never was. But we were 30 years younger then and hadn't yet realized that.
@Stewart: The story is a joke without a punchline. The funny thing is that you expect a punchline that never comes, but you get an anticlimax instead. Mr Martin explains the concept in his article in the Smithsonian Magazine.
I don't get why that "cruel shoes" story is funny.
Ask a woman how much her feet hurt after a night in high heels.
People work towards these epics for the same reasons they play the lottery (possibilities, fame, quick wins, etc). Just as in the lottery, some people win. Your odds aren't that good, but some still win.
Personally, i don't think this is an either/or type situation. I like to be consistently good - while keeping my eyes pealed for the epic.
Does the greatness really take care of itself ? If everyone strived to be consistant - would anyone be great ? Would google/microsoft/etc even exist ?
To borrow from "The Jerk": "I'm not a bum. I'm a programmer"
Hey Now Jeff,
I like your statement: strive to be consistently good
Coding Horror Fan,
The Cruel shoes story is funny in the same way that this weeks Slashdot Poll was superb. Does that help?
Better(or Excellence) is Hard to achieve. A lot.
So, what do you choose, Hard or Easy?
This post is very similar to the ongoing debate between Tom Peters and Jim Collins. In "Built to Last" and "Good to Great" Collins looks at companies that achieve greatness by being consistently good, just like this post is saying. But Peters says companies should be "Built to Flip", that they should aim for world impact rather than longevity. Like Netscape. Collins and Peters have different ideas of greatness. Peters would argue that the "Good to Great" philosophy is actually incrementalism and worse-is-better.
Steve Martin Voltaire Lisp?!?!? The context switching is killing me!
But seriously, I too encountered Cruel Shoes at the age of 10 and was mystified by it. I secretly saw some SNL episodes back then that featured Steve Martin and though didn't completely understand the humor I knew that something was going on. It's hard for me to reconcile that the same guy who was singing about King Tut 25+ years ago is the same man appearing in romantic comedies with Queen Latifah. Not that there is anything wrong with Queen Latifah, romance, or comedies. It's just quite a change.
Terrific post. I highly recommend Atul Gawande's book "Better" for more in the same vein.
the early 80's. At that time, I don't think there were any popular comedians exploring the ragged edge of humor in quite the same way Steve Martin was.
Granted, I wasn't around then, but what about Richard Pryor?
There is something wrong with phrase "Worse is better". It's simply too abstract. It doesn't mean anything.
LIPS is better than in C++ in expressiveness but worse when it comes to learning curve.
McDonald's is better than any other average restaurant when it comes to value for money but worse when it comes to quality of the meal.
it's always matter of perspective. What is worse to you might be better for someone else.
I live in Pennsylvania. I don't need to be a great programmer, just better than the Amish.
"The idea being, of course, that enough goodness slowly accreted over time usually trumps any epic (and usually ill-fated) plans to create any brand new great thing"
An interesting example for this are some MMORPGs: There are many small, really crappy games, that evolved from someones "I want to learn how to code C/PHP/whatever" attempt, that have gigantic following and make ridiculous amount of money (compared to the professionality of the game). At the same time, I know of so many epic failures of perfectly planned, professional games that would be the end all awesome games and tanked so horribly, and not because they were truly bad.
The cruel shoes joke is funny because many women would rather have shoes that mutilate their feet but look good/make them look good than something that is average but as comfortable as slippers.
As far as Steve Martin, I think that he is a great comedian and actor. His style is uniquely his own and I applaud him for that.
Actually, Steve's early jobs (such as wandering around Knott's Berry Farm singing and playing) are pretty interesting. He is an amazing banjo player too.
However, does "consistently good" lead to "greatness". Not necessarily. "Greatness" is too subjective a term. Being consistently good in a tough field (like parenting) weighs in more for me than being consistently good in some other field.
Is "greatness" defined by numbers of adorers? By talent that no one notices? By doing good in a world that puts the wrong things on a pedestal? By being really good at something hard?
Kind of an imprecise premise.
Very interesting post. I enjoyed the read.
I think Steve nailed it. If you're consistently striving to be good, you're doing more than most people are (since most people tend to stagnate without external motivation). This kind of reminds me of "Career Calculus" by Eric Sink. If you are improving a little bit every day, you're better than average already.
[ ed: http://www.ericsink.com/Career_Calculus.html ]
On a side note, The product problems that bring's The Jerk upward journey to an end is a prophetic forshadowing of the coffee cup lawsuits that were to follow in the real world...
"I live in Pennsylvania. I don't need to be a great programmer, just better than the Amish."
Now that was funny!
I don't know how much you follow football, but look at Eli Manning. When he isn't out there trying to win every single game by himself, he plays consistently and the Giants actually win games.
Reminds me of playing baseball as a kid. You'd have the kids who'd bat consistently "good" - say, good enough to get on base consistently without sacrificing the runner on first - but never seriously inspired fear in the other team. And then you'd have that kid who would strike out 2 out of 3 at-bats, but when he connected he'd knock it out of the park. That kid made you sweat if you were playing outfield, and curse if you were pitching.
You need good. You need a lot of good. If you don't have a solid base who know their limits and are willing to play *just* below them, you'll flame out too fast.
But you *want* great. Just enough to push you past what your opponents are expecting. Whether it's the only kid who has a shot at clearing the bases, or the only guy who has a shot at producing working code by the deadline.
Good puts bread on the table. Great puts sugar in your tea.
Good rehashes tired old metaphors. Great comes up with new ones. :-
I still don't get the cruel shoes joke, despite the explanations that women wear uncomfortable shoes for fashion. It seems maybe a bit tragic or perhaps ironic, but not funny. Then again, I'm with the guy who said that Steve Martin wasn't funny 30 years ago and isn't funny today.
I don't know if worse is better but I do believe worse is more popular. Particularly in technology fields it seems that every time there is a choice between two standards, the "worst" one seems to win out. Perhaps that is because the worst choice is easier. Maybe the saying should be "easy is better?"
Cruel Shoes really goes deeper than just 'women suffer in high-heeled shoes'. It touches everyone's desires to try something forbidden... something that they know could hurt them, but that they must experience for themselves. And there is always someone there enticing you into doing exactly what you know you shouldn't be...
In my opinion... being good takes discipline, knowledge, and persistence. Being great takes all of these things _and_ the addition of creativity.
I like Shog9's analogy 'Good puts bread on the table. Great puts sugar in your tea.'. Good is what I hope to do to pay my bills day-to-day... great is what I aspire to become by striking out on my own someday.
Personally, i find the cruel shoes story funny because... simply, Carlo says "unless, you'd like to try the cruel shoes" because he knows the second woman is likely to buy them. The funny part is that the fact that the woman would buy them, and the next woman, and the one after that.
How to make money in software and how to explain a lot of the software that we see every year.
1.Only put in enough features to make an existing user want to upgrade. Anything more and you are throwing effort away without compensation. They were going to upgrade anyway. Milk it!
2.Only build your product marginally better than the competition. If you build a conceptually much better product then all your cards are on the table and others can learn from your effort and bite you back with less development effort.
3.If you have a large installed base, you may even lag behind the competition as long as the pain point to continue using your software is less than the pain to learn something new or invest in a rival's solution.
4.It is much easier to be an also ran in a booming market than creating a new market.
During World War II the Germans made incredibly good aircraft. The messerschmidt and fockewulf to name two fighters. They were fast and probably the best in their class at the time. It also took a long time for a pilot to learn to fly them. On the other hand the Russians built simple klunky planes, but a pilot could be trained to fly them in a couple of weeks. So as the war on the Eastern front progressed the Germans lost their pilots faster than they could replace them. Even while they consistently shot down Russians. I the end the Russians won the air war because their equipment was worse than the Germans. This to my mind is a great example of worse is better in history.
in defense of Steve Martin's absolutely atrocious presence in films over the lest decade or so, let me assert this: He doesn't care -- he just wants the paycheck.
He's cashing in on his fame so that he can pursue his interest in contemporary art, experimental theater and young women.
Room for lots of comment:
- Gresham's law: bad money drives out good. The generalized case is that the lesser drives out the greater.
- If we all stop trying to be better (something greater than Good), will we not devolve to cretins?
- Each problem needs the best answer. So, if as either individual or group, we strive to be good 'on average' over a time's worth of problems; do we not, by definition, make a bad for each problem?
- Steve Jobs would certainly disagree. Apple's success(?) is the measure.
- A specific case of the good driving out the best: those with a mathematical mind understand that RDBMS datastores beat the crap out of flat files and xml and ... OTOH, most programmers never (certainly based on the majority of commenters on this blog) studied or, if they did got, databases while at university. Thus, bloated client-centric systems continue to breed. See recent Steve Yegge.
- Striving for good is an oxymoron, kind of like happily married (in the words of Dr. McElhone). And consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds (or thereabouts).
- I see a correlation with, "it's good enough"; thus the rise in use of what the BileBlog calls open sores. The smarter than average call BS on just about each piece of this rather large pie; but we Eloi keep eating.
- Is there not a correlation in the decline of USofA as measured by school tests scores, standard of living, health level, etc. and the willingness to be "good enough"?
and so on.
One counter point to this whole idea is to "aim high". If you succeed at something unlikely the rewards are great. If you fail it's because the problem was too hard in the first place (or atleast you can get away with that answer).
A good example of a field for aiming high would be Cryptography. Because if someone can break a good security system (and a real one at that), everyone wins (including the security experts) because breaking the unbreakable opens up the field again.
One field that should fall in the aim high category but empirically doesn't is the game industry. Most games that aim high are quite lackluster and those that really do the best are the ones that are consistently good (polished)
Thanks for posting those, Ron. In addition to Coding Horror, Rands is one of my favorite writers on the subject of software development. I appreciate those articles because they sum up the opposing ideologies of software engineering so succinctly. I consider myself an Incrementalist but I indulge in as many Completionist tendencies as is possible. I want to deliver the best product I can, but I also realize that people aren't paying me for software, they're paying me for making their lives easier or giving them a more powerful tool. Software that hasn't shipped isn't helping anyone. Any developer who has never had to cut features or ship with known bugs has lived a charmed life.
I think "worse is better" holds true because it is more realistic. Computers are so precise and deterministic, we are tempted to believe we can write software that is absolutely flawless. The problem is that the real world has other plans for our perfect conceptual models and our dreams of elegant code. I think one of the hardest things in software development is knowing when to say "when". Even the best programmers can get stuck in the trap of "better". In fact, I think it's only the best programmers who get stuck because the lousy programmers aren't aware of their own inadequacies or don't care enough to overcome them.
A (long) quote from Linus Torvalds on the subject: 'Nobody should start to undertake a large project. You start with a small _trivial_ project, and you should never expect it to get large. If you do, you'll just overdesign and generally think it is more important than it likely is at that stage. Or worse, you might be scared away by the sheer size of the work you envision. So start small, and think about the details. Don't think about some big picture and fancy design. If it doesn't solve some fairly immediate need, it's almost certainly over-designed. And don't expect people to jump in and help you. That's not how these things work. You need to get something half-way _useful_ first, and then others will say "hey, that _almost_ works for me", and they'll get involved in the project.'
in defense of Steve Martin's absolutely atrocious presence in films over the lest decade or so, let me assert this: He doesn't care -- he just wants the paycheck.
I'd say his recent big movie hits have been uninspiring, but I don't think it's fair to lump it in as *all* crap. For every "Cheaper By the Dozen 2" or "Pink Panther" there's something decent to balance out the porfolio, like "The Spanish Prisoner" or "Bowfinger".
The flaw in this article is obvious.
Steve Martin is not funny.
The lesson here can be carried over in so many things in life. Sometimes it's best to complete the task at hand even it it is just "good" then to be unfinished striving for "great".
Can we even define what GOOD really is?
For me, greatness is harder to quantify than merely good because there are so many gradations and so many different ways of judging greatness. Good, on the other hand, only has to be more worthwhile than the crushing weight of mediocrity and truly, painfully, horribly bad things all around us.
I live in Pennsylvania. I don't need to be a great programmer, just better than the Amish.
So, what Robert said.
1. Good post, as always.
2. Voltaire said, "The best is the enemy of the good." Variant I prefer is, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
3. Incremental progress and consistently good work is the way, especially in software development.
4. Steve Martin is a genius, but explaining any humor (Cruel Shoes or otherwise) is fruitless. Humor, like a frog, dies during dissection.
"The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but that while their companions slept were toiling upward in the night." - Gary Player.
He also said, "The more I practice the luckier I get."
OK, so he's not saying that worse is better, just that you need to work hard to achieve your goals. I think that's what Steve Martin means when he says "What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the circumstances."
I think that the dominance of Microsoft Windows over Apple Macintosh is another example of "worse is better", although I prefer to restate the axiom as "good enough is better" in this case. The Apple Macintosh had a superior graphical interface way back in 1984. It wasn't until version 3.x did the Windows interface even approach that of the Macintosh (though Microsoft was also working on OS/2 for IBM at the time). Despite Windows' inferiority to other graphical OS's, namely Macintosh, Microsoft dominated and continues to dominate the desktop market largely because they targeted a broad market and their products are at least adequate for the majority of the people in that market, but aren't neccessarily the "best" available.
..seems to be true with operating systems ? ( sorry :) )
Not sure I fully understand it. Maybe LISP is better then C++ in some areas, but I am sure C++ is better in other areas and because of that is "wins" ?
I think Steve Martin should worry more about making people have fun then being great.
The point isn't that lower quality is superior to high quality--the WWII aircraft and operating system examples demonstrate other things. They describe the powers of, respectively, interfaces (I'm no expert, but ThatGuyInTheBack might be) and marketing strategies.
Worse is better is generally sacrificing perfection for other benefits. In its original use, it referred to the success of C and Unix having a lot to do with their emphasis on simplicity over correctness and completeness.
What Jeff is talking about is about consistency and completeness over correctness. It's related to Worse is Better, yes, but it's not quite the same.
"It is easy to be great" misses the point slightly. Consider golf. Every now and then a golfer will manage par, or perhaps even a hole in one. But a great golfer will get par more often than an averge one, because they have more innate skill and take it upon themselves to practice much harder. What I think Steve Martin is saying is that doing something lots makes you better at it, and that you shouldn't think you are great at something just because you did it really well once.
I've no idea how this really maps into programming. Sometimes things I've dashed off have been loved, and things I've laboured over have been hated. My guidance at this point comes from Kipling, and the poem IF :
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same"
As long as you are true to yourself, and are happy that what you have done is as good as it needs to be, then the rest is down to things that you probably have no control over anyway - so it is best not to worry about them.
Cruel Shoes... Explained
Carlos has just spent forever showing her *ALL* the shoes in the store. At this point, the woman is still not happy. So for his own personal amusement, he goes to get the "Cruel Shoes". He explains what's wrong with them and she still wants to try them on. He gets to play the sadist, and torture her as she has been torturing him all day. Oddly, she likes the shoes and takes them. Here is the "Women want look good more than feel good" piece.
Next day, the story repeats itself. You think he sold the cruel shoes and no longer has them? Nope, just so happens he has another pair.
Carlos is a Sadist, and this is his way to get back at all those women shopping for shoes... He's the earliest Al Bundy.
At least, that was my interpretation and why it was funny to me.
Good article. In my opinion, worse is better, until it's no longer good enough. This threshold is largely an individual metric, but many individuals start feeling the same way around the same time, a sort of Gaussian distribution of public opinion if you will.
Then people start switching from their worse solutions, to "better" ones by the path of least resistance. Java was in the right place at the right time to nab C++ developers for instance. Ruby on Rails, and soon, Python and Django, are in the same boat for those crushed under the burden of J2EE.
Perhaps even Scala and F# will benefit from the increasing complexity of Java and C# respectively. I predict that within the next 5 years, there will be another major market shift to a new language. What will it be?
I like to say -- and I don't think it's original to me;I'm not that great -- there are no great men (people), only ordinary men who do great things. And then there is Bill Gates, who did something really bad, but it turned out great for him. Which brings us to the wisdom of Solomon, who said, "time and chance happen to us all."
So, is it better to shoot for the moon and burn up on reentry or just to jump over the water puddle and live to tell about it?
"But that is wrong, because perfect is better than good enough"
Only if it actually ships. The "good" product that ships will outsell the "perfect" product that never gets finished.
And Jeff... I'm sorry, but "Bowfinger" was a terrible movie.
A surprisingly deep quote, considering it comes from "Star Trek" (paraphrasing):
"Don't try to be a great man; just be a man, and let history make its judgement."
explaining jokes is always a losing proposition... but everyone has to lose sometimes.
Anyway, it has -nothing- to do with a woman being willing to put up with painful shoes if she looks good. It's nowhere near that straightforward. Jokes don't always make a pithy observation on reality...
Cruel Shoes is not funny, period.
The 'better interface' comment about fighter planes and the 'better GUI' comment about OS's both miss the fundamental point of WorseIsBetter in roughly the same way.
The actual product is worse. E.g., the Russian plane, flown by a competent pilot, will typically lose to the German plane flown by a competent pilot. It's interface won't save it in a dogfight. But the worse product is better for the targeted application. How a given thing fits in the real-world context that matters, not the thing itself.
So long as thing X passes the minimum acceptable requirements for things of its class (the plane flies and shoots, the OS runs useful apps), it will beat thing Y IFF the variables outside the scope of things of its class but relevant to how the thing is used in its target human context are in X's favor.
To finish the example, the context was winning the air war, not making the best plane. The rooskies won the air war because their plane was good enough as a plane, and their solution was better fit to realities external to pure plane quality - namely pilot trainability throughput, pilot turnover, and new pilot availability. The solution-in-context was better, but the plane was not.
It's mostly about drawing the right-sized box, but allowance must be made for fuzziness of the critical variable definitions - in this case, 'good enough plane' and 'critical pilot turnover rate'.
Another way of looking at it: avoid falling into the trap of thinking that the key tangible component is the only thing that matters, when the thing has to be used in the wild.
Unforunately, this has nothing to do with Steve M's point about Good v. Great.
PS - Steve Martin really does have mad skilz - check out 'Picasso at Lapin Agile' if his popular stuff makes you think otherwise.
"Forget greatness. Can we even define what greatness truly is? "
Can we even define what GOOD really is? Maybe I'm missing something, but if you could pick between being consistently good and consistently great, why wouldn't you want to be great?
I get the idea that long term consistency trumps flash-in-the-pan greatness, but this entry seems a little, I don't know, cowardly.
Almost like you're telling us to stay conservative, stick with only what you're good at, don't explore the unknown, don't experiment, don't dream big, don't "look at what hasn't been done and say 'why not'", and just be good.
I thought I'd read "perfect is the enemy of done" in this context, but the Google hits for the phrase are quite sparse. Maybe it's in a book.
And on the other hand, here is a quotation in The Prince:
"Let no one be surprised if, in speaking of entirely new principalities as I shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of state; because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others, and following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep entirely to the ways of others or attain to the power of those they imitate. A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it. Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach."
No, worse is not better. Better is.
Many people think that "good enough" is better than "perfect", because you can deliver the good enough product in time and budget, and no-one comes after you demanding a perfect product. So you might think that "good enough" is worse than "perfect" so worse would be better. But that is wrong, because perfect is better than good enough, if you ask me. If someone delivered better than your good enough also perhaps at the same price or cheaper, then you would loose many customers. So in the end being able to deliver a perfect product in time and budget is the ultimate goal. We can limitlessly approach perfection as a affordable solution.
This statement is false.
This statement is persistently false.
The second statement is more false than the first statement.
Clearly, worse is better.
What Steve was saying is that we don't really understand what it takes to be great. When it does happen it's easy. Some can be great more often than others perhaps, but anybody can be great sometimes. (At least once maybe.) But if you're only great say for example, less than half the time, you may not enjoy a long career.
But we can understand what it takes to be good. We can practice our art, we can develop dependable technique so that we can be consistently good, any time, any place. But this is what's hard to do. It's also what allows us to stay in the game and have more chances to roll the dice for the possibility to experience greatness. (I also think that knowing you can be consistently good might give you the confidence to take an occasional chance, maybe unconsciously, to "go for it".)
This is entirely different than saying that we should only aim to be "just good enough".
And I suppose black is whiter.
This is one nonsensical blog.
And the contributors deal in logic for a living!
Or maybe fuzzy logic, or contradictory logic?
Are you wannabe politicians?
Wow! The content is really superb.Steve Martin is funny and interesting.This is crazy.Photograph is nice.thank you.
Hi! I am an employee at Professional makeup center. i like the statement great is the enemy of good.Nice posting. keep it up.thanks for sharing.