Flaky Goodness

Best Enough

November 11, 2012

Dustin Curtis just published an interesting post about the payoff you get from finding and choosing the very best of whatever you own and use. He argues that it is better to have a few very nice things that work just the way you want and that you can blindly trust than it is to have many things that aren’t quite right.

I like this idea, and over the past few years I have tried to incorporate a “less stuff, but better stuff” approach to my life. In some things I have been successful, and in some things I have failed. Now I’m convinced that it would be madness to try to apply this approach to everything, or even to most things.

Finding “The Best” is expensive

Financially to be sure, but more importantly, the research, selection, evaluation, acquisition, maintenance and divestiture of “The Best” is significant. Dustin talks about the 20 different sets of flatware he bought and tried before settling on “The Best.” With no derision intended, there are only a few things on which I can afford to lavish such passion. A very few things.

Living up to “The Best” is all-consuming

I spent the better part of 2012 fiddling with Vim to try to make it “The Best” editor for me. Hours and hours of (admittedly enjoyable) learning and tweaking and asking and banging my head against a desk. I could never quite get it to where I needed it to be, and I’m using something else now. I don’t regret the time I spent, but make no mistake, that was a lot of time.

When you commit to using “The Best” IDE, or driving “The Best” car, or using “The Best” kitchen utensils, you are commiting to constant learning, honing, tweaking, maintaining and upgrading. These are fantastic things to do for a few things in your life. A very few things.

“The Best” does not actually exist

There is a well-known sales tenet having to do with consumer education. The more educated a potential customer becomes about the product area, the more likely they are to up-sell themselves to a “better” solution.

For most of my life I had no interest in coffee, but over the past few years I have “educated” myself up from pre-ground department store beans and a French press all the way to locally roasted artisan beans and a Rancilio espresso machine with a hacked-on PID controller that keeps the boiler temperature within a 0.2 degree range. The tamper I use has a lightly rippled base to prevent channeling.


Figure 1: Reg Barber Ripple Tamper Base

And guess what? I could be doing much better, but I have decided to stop here for now.

Once you start down the path to “The Best,” there is no end. Ask a photographer what “The Best” camera body is. Or a designer about “The Best” layout software. You see, “The Best” is not a product or solution at all. It is a journey towards perfection. A challenging, fascinating, often frustrating journey that you should only be on if you care an awful lot about the destination.

And how many of these journeys do you want to be on right now? How many can you afford to be on?

For almost everything in our lives, there is a “good enough,” and stopping there is the right move. Sufficiency does not preclude excellence, but it’s a great way to stay out of the rabbit-hole of perfection. Err, I mean, “The Best.”