Good Enough

The Importance of Satisficing over Maximizing

The other day, I twote:

In general, you move faster and feel a lot less stress once you realize:

You don’t need “the best”, you just need “good enough”. Looking for:

“the best”

  • obsessing over benchmarks
  • caring what influencers think
  • keeping up with new releases

“good enough”

  • what YOU need done
  • what YOU know well
  • what YOU enjoy

The more reversible the decision, the faster you should move.

This was borne out of answering yet another beginner question on /r/Reactjs on what was the best library, the best course, the best framework.

The problem with being a beginner is you don’t even know that these are bad questions.

So I think we all could do a better job of framing engineering and life as satisficing rather than maximizing operations.

The Problem with Seeking “The Best”

We spend a lot of time seeking “The Best” of something:

  • schools
  • job/salary
  • home
  • city
  • partner
  • framework

Happiness: Seeking the best only to find you have ended up with the second best is a recipe for disappointment. You end up comparing long feature checklists looking for the most amount of green. Most of which you don’t need. Even picking something, anything, gives you anxiety because you fear missing out.

Cooperation: It transforms the world into a zero-sum finite game rather than a positive-sum infinite game.

Efficiency: It is also ridiculously inefficient. The corollary of the Pareto principle is that the last 20% of something is the most expensive - and that’s what you have to sweat if you must seek “the best” all the time. It’s fine to seek the best - just know that you’re going to incur a cost for disproportionately less absolute (though relative) gain.

Agency: By the way, people game “best-seekers” all the time, by defining for you what “best” is. Who wants to be Mayor on Foursquare? Who can compete to get the most subscribers on YouTube? Which wait-service staff will be Employee of the Month? Games to give fake status to people who live in the system, by people who profit off the system. If you seek “good enough”, you reclaim your own agency.

“Good Enough” is, well, good enough.

Note to reader: An older framing of this same idea was presented in In Defense of Hammers

Tagged in: #principles

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