Underrated B+ Work

In a world of trying to obtain the perfect this, that, and the other—we could all do well to understand Voltaire’s wisdom in such a simple concept:

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Easier said than done.

I admit, I’m a perfectionist. I’m an “excellent-a-tariane”. If something is worth being done, it’s worth being done right. If one volunteers for something, then one does it without fail. If having guests for dinner, it will be Martha Stewart perfect. When writing a post, it should be well-edited. There is no such thing as over rehearsing for a piano solo. And the list goes on and on.

It’s kinda exhausting.

All those rules.

Recently a friend who was doing community-service work with me, needed to opt out at last-minute. Leaving me single-handedly to do the work of four volunteers. I was stressed beyond belief. I internally questioned their reasoning and integrity. And yeah, that internal questioning leaked out of me onto them. Not very nice of me right? I am a hard friend to love—but in exchange you will never find a more truthful, loyal, or committed friend. Anyways, I was stressed and frustrated (this being my irrational excuse for letting my inside voice come out).

I back-peddled and apologize for being too transparent. Then they said something to the effect of: their choices and reasoning will not look my choices and reasoning.


Wait a minute… OH! {ding!! light-bulb moment}

For some reason I thought we all played by the same rules. I thought everyone stopped at stop-signs. I thought we all put out fresh towels for guests. I thought everyone brewed iced-tea, and used lemon rinds to clean their sink. I presumed everyone understood that the “good” cutlery must be hand washed, and that you must wash your face before going to bed.

I thought everyone played by the VERY SAME RULES I set out for myself. And when they don’t play by my rules, I am let down, disappointed, and frustrated due to circumstances beyond my control.

Little did my friend know that in this moment of abandoning a choice to volunteer, would be a catalyst for me to really dive into, discover, and shift my thinking surrounding a simple phrase: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.”

I suddenly realized I had the power to stop making so many rules that I can’t live up to. I could stop the insanity. I could learn to live with how others play the rules (or lack thereof) and be “okay” with it.

Now I’m not saying that it’s okay to break rules willy-nilly. And I’m certainly not okay with willy-nilly commandment busting – especially when it comes to the Golden Rule (aka: Jesus’ greatest commandment). But what did come out of that moment was three bits of wisdom I’m applying to life:

1) Stop placing my expectations about day-to-day life on others. Period.

I could go on-and-on about how hard this is to do. And we could debate on some Biblical principles here. And sure there will be the rare, minor exception. But that’s just it, it has to be minor and rare. Because by-and-large, my personal standards are not yours – and that HAS to be okay with me.

2) Stop getting overly committed. Stop signing up for things.

While I can’t thwart my God-given “excellentatariane” mentality – I CAN reduce the number of situations I create where this mentality is applied. THIS is a hard lesson for me. I’m a do-er, a leader, a task-master. I can’t change this—nor do I want to. Instead I constantly and gently need to remind myself that God made me perfect this way, and because of this I will be more careful in what I choose to start. My plate is only so big, if something new is coming on—something old has to come off.  (I’ve actually been applying this to my life for a couple of years now—when I follow this “rule” it serves me well)  😉

3) B+ work is really good. Do it.

In a world where kids are taught that an “A” and overall score over 4.0 is more than a goal – rather it is the norm – is sooooo dangerous. Our society is making perfectionist-monsters. And I won’t even get into that debate because I don’t have a solution… it’s a society issue. But in my own life I can apply the wisdom of B+ work. DO NOT LET PERFECTIONISM (A+ work) KILL GOOD (B+ work). Perfectionism is one of the biggest obstacles to action.

It’s too easy to not go to the gym because I only have 45 minutes instead of the 1.5 hours I need for the “perfect” work out. It’s too tempting to not go out and meet new people because I’m not a “perfect” size 8. It’s easy to dump the idea of Christmas cards when others send “perfect” hand-addressed cards to the entire church directory.

So I’ve resolved to do “B+ work”, specifically when the lack of “A work” would prevent me from doing anything at all. How does that look in my life? I text friends for friendship interaction, I use paper plates, I pray in burst and blurts, not everyone gets a Hallmark card on every occasion, sometimes my socks don’t match, dusting happens once a month, and sometimes a post will end without a good wrap up.

Copyright © 2009- 2011 Sherry Meneley . All Rights Reserved . soiledwings.com . sherrymeneley.com . soiled wings

12 thoughts on “Underrated B+ Work

  1. Ummmm…were we separated at birth? Wow! This was so refreshing to read Sherry. I too struggle with not placing my own expectations on others. When I went back to school to get my Master’s I had to let a few things go. I decided that it was time to “embrace mediocrity” and that as you said so eloquently…let B+ work be enough. This was a gift today….thank you!

    • I’m actually trying to figure out how this could become one of my “non-negotiables” – but I just don’t see a way – maybe it will be a “footnote” 😉

  2. Sherry, I related to EVERY word of this! I, too, suffer from perfectionism and can’t-say-no-itis! God has been working on me with this, but sometimes I slip into the old abyss. It’s really hard when the thing you are volunteering for is a church or God thing. I have thought that since it’s for Him it must be something I should say yes to! No! He is teaching me to stay plugged into Him and listen to His small, still voice. I do believe sometimes he tests me to see if I will jump right on board, or take the most important step of praying for guidance first.

    Thank you wise friend! 🙂 I know I was supposed to read this today!


  3. You know what they say “timing is everything”, and this message has been placed before me 3 times this week. Do you think I should take it in and apply it? (like Charlie Sheen says “Like Duh”! Words of wisdom for sure.

  4. 4) Let your dog clean off your dish, she will do a better job then you. Less work cleaning dishes. More time to relax.

  5. Love this. I think the closing paragraph was my favorite 😉 I’ve been on this same journey–I call myself a “recovering perfectionist”. Your post has validated my journey and given me permission to keep striving for unperfection. 😉

  6. Oh, for a minute there I thought you had read my mind!! Love, love, LOVE your three bits of wisdom…gonna share this with a daughter who picked up some of my “rules!”

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