Stop Aiming and Fire the Arrow!

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Motivational Speaker Bill Stainton

Lorne Michaels—the creator and producer of Saturday Night Live—and I have several things in common:

  • We’ve both produced a multiple Emmy Award winning sketch comedy TV show.
  • We’ve both spawned national talent (in my case, Joel McHale and Bill Nye the Science Guy; in Lorne’s case, everybody else that you’ve ever heard of).
  • We’re both multi-gazillionaires (measured, in Lorne’s case, in U.S. dollars; and in my case, in Tanzanian shillings).

But I’m a little upset with Lorne Michaels, because he said something that I used to say, except that because he’s much more famous he gets the credit for the quotation. Oh well. Harry Truman (not Lorne Michaels) once said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

So, putting my own fragile ego aside, here’s what Lorne said:

[quote]We don’t go on the air because we’re ready; we go on because it’s 11:30.[/quote]

(For the record, my show also went on the air at 11:30.)

Yes, it can always be better

Believe me, in the world of television sketch comedy, there’s always something that can be tweaked just a little bit more, made just a little bit better. Another rewrite, another punchline, another edit. There’s always something.

But then it’s 11:30, and you go on the air with what you have. It may not be perfect (and maybe it never would have been), but if you’re good enough at your job, it’ll work.

Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying you shouldn’t try for perfection. I want you to aim high! Lorne aims for perfection every week; so did I. So I don’t want to hear any of you going around saying, “Bill says it’s okay to put out crap.” (But if you are going to say that, at least have the courtesy to attribute it to Lorne Michaels, not me.)

My team and I never put a “perfect” show on the air. Some were great, most were good, and a few were klunkers. Every single week for fifteen years we went on the air with a show that wasn’t quite ready. And we won over 100 Emmy Awards.

I know that Jim Collins said “Good is the enemy of great,” meaning that if you settle for “good,” you’ll never achieve “great.” I’m not saying you should “settle for good.” I’m saying “aim for great.”

But there’s a time when you need to stop aiming and fire the damn arrow!

Yes, “good is the enemy of great.” But so is “perfect.” It turns out that “perfect” and “great” are not synonyms! And here’s the thing:

[box]A great—or even good—idea, product, or service that sees the light of day is better than a perfect one that stays locked up until it’s “ready.”[/box]

In all likelihood:

  • your book will never be “perfect.”
  • your project will never be “perfect.”
  • this blog entry will never be “perfect.” (This last one is definitely true!)

But there’s a time when you have to hit the “Publish” button. There’s a time when you have to put your idea out there. There’s a time when you look at the clock…and it’s 11:30. And you go on the air.

What have YOU been keeping from the world because it’s not yet “perfect”? Has there been a time when you put something out there that you would have liked to have tweaked a little more, and saw good results nonetheless? Please use the COMMENTS area below to share your specific experiences…


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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