The enemy of the good is the great, but that doesn’t mean that the friend of the good is the crappy.

I am definitely someone that needs to remember that the “enemy of the good is the great.”  In everyday usage, the phrase refers to situations in which a perfectionist doesn’t actually finish anything because nothing is ever “great enough” to go out.

That’s me.  My worklife is just filled with projects that are incomplete because they’re not finished to my standards, when probably anyone else would just put them out.  It’s very frustrating, I think, to the people I work with, particularly when those projects get delayed as I continue to tinker with them. I need to be better about that. 

I also need to remember that sometimes, “great” projects can crowd out getting anything else done. For example, last year my team created an informational website for the Home Buyer Tax Credit.  We did it for two reasons: (1) to provide good information on the tax credit to consumers, and (2) to generate some inbound and outbound referrals from people who would get that information and want assistance in buying.  It was a great site, including:

  • A dozen videos explaining the tax credit.
  • A full overview, FAQ, at-a-glance charts.
  • A blog with updates, a legislation page, all the IRS documentation.
  • And an unbelievably detailed eligibility test that included about 100 different questions and about 60 different possible outcomes.

It was an unbelievable site, and I honestly believed that it was the perfect articulation of the client-oriented perspective I want to bring to real estate, but it was definitely much better than it needed to be.  Why? Because at the time we launched it, the tax credit only had a few months to run.  The amount of time and resources we put in might have made sense if we were a nonprofit government entity — the information we provided was 100 times as good as anything the federal government put out about it — but it wasn’t necessary for our purpose.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s clear in retrospect.  I am running a business, but I spent a lot of time and energy writing and designing content, and answering questions from people who had no businss relationship with my company. In that case, the great was the enemy of the good insofar as having a “great” tax credit site wasn’t necessary for a three-month project, and a “great” site prevented me from getting other things done. 

That’s the essence of the “good versus great” dynamic — being great can sometimes prevent you from getting something done, because the perfectionist instinct either (1) soaks up all your time, preventing you from accomplishing anything else, or (2) prevents you from actually finishing a project, because you can never bring yourself to be quite “done.”  I’m sure a lot of agents fall into that trap, and I warn against that in my training. 

Essentially, you don’t need to be “great” if:

  1. what you’re working on isn’t going to last for very long (i.e., a tax credit site that has three months to run, a printout of a showing sheet that will be thrown out after a showing).
  2. it isn’t directly related to building your business (i.e., anything that doesn’t relate to generating or servicing clients).
  3. being “great” will take a long time, a lot of time, or a lot of effort, and “good” can be accomplished quickly and cheaply and accomplish what you’re trying to do.

But the fact that the enemy of the good is the great doesn’t mean that we should generally settle for the crappy.  I see marketing materials generated by agents all the time that are embarrassing — flyers that are generated out of some old presentation template with a mix of fonts and low-resolution pictures and misspellings and all sorts of things that do not present a strong impression; CMAs that don’t cover the full area; agent websites that include profiles that are misspelled or incomplete; property listings online with low-resolution photos, two-line descriptions, or three pictures of a 4,000 square foot home.  That’s pretty crappy, and I think that crappy is a bigger enemy of the good than the great.

To give another example, a real estate company just put out an iPad app that purports to allow for real estate search, but has an extremely limited usefulness (I’m not going to say who, because I’m not trying to slam anyone). It only shows a very small set of properties that might be available to clients.  How useful is real estate search, if the search only shows a very small percentage of what’s for sale?  They obviously spent a ton of time and money on it, but not enough to actually make it useful to clients.  In my mind, putting out something like that isn’t worth the time and effort, not because it’s “great” and crowded out other projects, but because it’s crappy.

So then, when do you want to be great:

  1. When what you’re doing is going to last a long time, like a system or a website that can be done correctly and then used for a very long time.
  2. When what you’re doing is directly related to building your core business.
  3. When being “great” can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time, for a reasonable amount of effort and money.

If you’re doing something that’s worthwhile, and the “great” is worth it, then, by all means, be great.  Don’t be crappy.


  1. Very well said, unfortunately everyone who cares about there business falls into the enemy of good is great at some point, but the key is to know when to let go. Thanks for all your efforts and hard work you make us as agents stand out above the crowd. I miss your accountability classes!

  2. We often get stuck trying to get from 80% to 100% complete on a project. I completely agree with your thoughts on that whether that final 20% will make the difference between success and failure. In most cases, I don’t believe it does! This has been something I’ve been trying to focus on. I think many of us “type A” personalities struggle with perfectionism tendencies.

  3. Thought provoking thank you. I’d like to hear your thoughts on:
    1) Is it also possible that the enemy of the great is the good? That too often in today’s short term payoff oriented world, we settle for good enough when great is close at hand?
    2) Rumor has it that yours is a successful business. To what degree do you think people are inspired to be part of a team precisely because they want to be in an environment where leaders stay well past 5:00 pm and sweat the details and “over-invest” in a First Time Homebuyer Website for reasons that go beyond the raw calculus of how much is good enough?