The Best is the Enemy of the Good

Dear friend,

What if we didn’t need or want the “best” in life– and we’re satisfied with the “good”?

I. Voltaire is good.

I’ve been reading Voltaire, and I came across this quote:

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

What I found interesting was that I knew this quote, but the version I knew was:

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

II. I’m a sucker.

Okay, so the reason why I like this idea that the “best is the enemy of the good” is that it makes me think of my own materialism, and how I often get suckered by wanting the “best.

I have always wanted the best material things. I wanted the best sneakers, the best camera, the best laptop, the best phone, the best bag, the best lens, and the “best” tools for living.

The problem is this: you cannot quantify “best.” There is no objective measure for “best.”

Anything technological: the “best” changes every 6 months. Therefore you fall into a “hedonic treadmill” of always wanting new shit.

For me, I’m never satisfied with my goods. I am never 100% satisfied with my phone, car, clothes, camera, or laptop. I always want something “better.”

So I wondered to myself:

I already know that all my stuff is “good”– perhaps not the “best”. So I should just remove the word “best” from my vocabulary. I wonder if I did this, I would be less dissatisfied, less distracted, and more focused on my creative work?

The logic makes sense to me. I should just focus on having my tools as “good”– and just focus on making good art. Good art as in good blog posts, good photos, good poems, and to share good ideas.

III. The zen of one.

I know in the past, I often fell victim to “paralysis by analysis”– I became immobile, because I had too many options. Psychologists also call this the “tyranny of choice”– that by having too many options, we get stressed out.

For example, if you own 5 cameras and 5 lenses, it might stress you out. You waste valuable brain power, figuring out which camera or lens to shoot with that day. At least, I know this is what happened to me.

The “Zen of one camera, one lens” works for me. As I’m writing these lines, I am in Saigon and only brought the Ricoh GR II with me. No stress. I know exactly what camera (and lens) to shoot with at all times. Less worries and stress on choosing the camera, more focus on making meaningful photos.

This is why I also wear the same outfit everyday. All black everything. One less choice to make, so more brain power on what to write, or what art to make.

IV. My perfect day:

I like the idea of being “virtuously boring” in terms of your daily routine– and vigorously aggressive with your creative work. I know for myself, I often like having the structure of having similar daily schedules: waking up, having coffee, reading, going to coffee shop, having more coffee, writing, meeting Cindy and chatting, more coffee, more writing, going on a walk with my camera, making some photos, thinking while walking (no headphones), sitting down at (another coffee shop), having more coffee, thinking more and perhaps a little more reading, meeting Cindy, having dinner for three hours and chatting, going home, taking a shower, reading in bed, having pillow talk with Cindy, and then going to sleep. To me, this schedule is heaven.

V. Seeking to become the best version of myself.

Of course, I’ll never be satisfied. I’ll always want to buy more shit, I’ll always have random stuff in my Amazon wishlist, I will always desire new toys, new tech, and new new new new newness.

But fuck it, let me try to remind myself to love and appreciate the good, and not need or desire the best.

I should settle for “good” tools and stuff, but seek to make the “best” art I can. To make the best photos of my ability, to teach the best, to share the best ideas, and to become the best version of myself.

Let’s do this together.

Be strong,
Eric

Scroll to Top