Shoot for the moon, the common saying goes. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Then, of course, there’s the more skeptical version of that expression:
Shoot for the Moon. If you miss, you’ll end up co-orbiting the Sun alongside Earth, living out your days alone in the void within sight of the lush, welcoming home you left behind.
So what is a person to do? Is it better to dream the impossible dream or to manage expectations?
Are the two mutually exclusive?
Maybe, maybe not. Aiming for perfection is all well and good – it’s when that aspiration meets the real world that things get dicey.
First, there’s the practical problem. If you do all things perfectly all of the time – you really aren’t accomplishing much at all. Perfection is an ideal. It arguably doesn’t exist. As Voltaire wrote in La Bégueule:
Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of the good.
Perfect’s not so perfect any more if the task never gets done.
Perhaps perfection is going too far, but perhaps one could still aim for perfection and settle for above average.
The challenge here is not so much where you aim, but where you land. If you really aim for perfection – work for it with everything you’ve got and pour your heart and soul into getting there – will you really be satisfied with good enough? Even if that good enough is above average, that’s still mighty short of perfection.
And that’s a recipe for disappointment. Perhaps even a recipe for assuming failure.
Arguably, that sense of failure could lead you to try harder next time – to be better next time. But, it seems to me, that sense of failure is just as likely to set you off on a downward spiral of accepting defeat before you’ve begun.
I don’t think there’s a formula that works for everyone. But I do wonder if we can blur the lines a little more than they’re typically blurred. Sort of a hope for the best, plan for the worst model.
Perhaps, instead, I would propose something like this:
Shoot for the moon – but if the conditions are unfavorable, reschedule the launch for tomorrow. That’s better than dying in space.