You might be good, but you could always be better. Don’t rest on your laurels. “The moment you stop striving for the better you begin your downfall as a business,“ Ubuntu Education Fund founder Jacob Lief told me recently. You have to be constantlydedicated to improvement, to training, to proving yourself.“We never stand still and accept that we have something that’s good enough,” Geoff McGrath, MD of McLaren Applied Technologies, told us in his stunning presentation at the Investec Entrepreneurs’ Summit in May. We live in a fiercely competitive world, with the best businesses striving for growth and high performance. But how do you keep up the pace? Is failure always terminal? I came across an article on the website of German weekly Die Zeit. It was written by a reader, Jürgen Alberts, who bemoans the culture in which mediocrity and setbacks find no acknowledgment. Failure is important, he says. And so is the mediocre. Why can’t plain good be good enough? “We’re delighted when we achieve the above-average,” he writes. “We admire peak performance. That’s all nice and well. But the extraordinary can only stand out if the ‘satisfactory’ is the scale.” Just look at eBay, Alberts writes. It’s all merchants begging for outstanding ratings, because anything less than that is already negative. “Have we lost the benchmark? We won’t even tell each other that we’re good if we make an effort anymore. Nobody thinks it’s okay to make a mistake once in a while. We only accept the person who fulfills all expectations to the above-average. We only praise someone who works wonders.” The freedom to just be “good” has somewhere got lost in our madly competitive world. What’s left is the fear of being not quite good enough. It’s a permanent pressure on our backs, fears Alberts. So whose fault is this phenomenal pressure? Ours, with our high-flying expectations for business and private life? The pressure of failing economies? Alberts: “Despite exhaustion and frustration, only too few people allow themselves to acknowledge their own mean or their failure. And yet it would be much easier, if we could find more joy in the process – and not just the ultimate achievement.” Under the pressure of leading a high-growth business, is it ever okay to be satisfied? Can you ever stop and acknowledge the ‘good’, not just the ‘better’?
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