Doing good vs. doing better

Doing good implies we have achieved something pleasant. It indicates that you are doing something well-received by others.

There is another approach to this.

If we can move past the label of good, we can shed the stranglehold of comparison and praise that good implies and just see as is.

Because none of us are that good at what we do.

For a two-year-old who paints a picture, it’s customary and culturally appropriate to tell her she did a good job. But compared to who? Compared to what? If we compared her work to Paul Cézanne, it wasn’t nearly as well executed. Well then you say, that isn’t a fair comparison. Sure, so how is it good compared to the other two-year-olds? How do we know that?

It must mean it is good from the last time she painted. But what if the emotional labor, the effort she put in wasn’t really there this time? Or maybe she tried to paint something that she never painted before, what then?

What is good anyway?

Good leads us to compare. It puts us in the role of the critic. Because when something is not good, it must mean it’s bad. Good indicates a destination, that we have arrived instead of acknowledged process. Good pushes our work to please the masses instead of pushing the boundaries.

The alternative then is better. Better, on the other hand, leads to more contribution. Better says that you took another step to perfecting your craft.

Bob Dylan has released 38 albums. Three of them being Gospel albums. Way different from what Dylan has contributed before and since then. So, was the Christian Trilogy good or bad? Did everyone like the albums? Of course not. Someone did though.

Isaac Asimov wrote 400 books in his lifetime. Do you think all of them were good or did they just keep making him better?

Since no task is ever done perfectly, maybe we should acknowledge that we are simply doing better.

No one finishes painting a picture and says, “I’m doing worse.” No, the picture may not have been as good (see I just did it) as last time but practicing your craft leads us on the path of getting better.

Doing better recognizes the infinity of progress.

“Life is revealed as a place to contribute and we as contributors. Not because we have done a measurable amount of good, but because that is the story we tell.”—Roz and Ben Zander