Good enough never is

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There's a good reason why Debbie Fields of cookie fame is so successful, and she summed it up in an aphorism I'll never forget - "Good enough never is."

Debbie told me how she coined that phrase after she visited one of her first stores.  She walked in unannounced and saw a large crowd of customers in line.  The problem was she noticed the most recent batch of cookies was overcooked, and she didn't want those cookies sold.  When she confronted the manager he said, "They are good enough."  Debbie responded with her now famous line, "Good enough never is."  And she threw the entire batch in the trash and made the staff start over.  She went through the line explaining what had happened.  After apologizing to everyone, she said their orders would be free, if they came back and gave them another chance to show they were the best cookies in the world.

I can attest to how good they are because Debbie made a batch for my wife and me when we visited her at her Aspen home.  What a cookie, and what a lesson!

I also learned another valuable lesson from Debbie.  She started cooking at an early age because her mother's cooking was just "good enough," and Debbie wanted better.  Initially her mother was not in favor of Debbie starting her cookie business because she thought it would fail.

That got Debbie realizing that there are two sides of life.  There is the negative side that points out the risks and wants to rain on your parade.  Then there is the positive side that cheers you on and roots for your success.  It's up to you to determine the best path.

Fortunately Debbie Fields chose the positive side, as the company now has over 300 franchised and licensed locations throughout the United States and in 22 other countries since she opened her first store in 1977.

Giving 100 percent in everything you do is so important.  According to statistics compiled by the Communications Division of Insight, Syncrude Canada Ltd., if 99.9 percent were good enough, then:

  • 107 incorrect medical procedures will be performed by the end of the day today.
  • Two million documents will be lost by the IRS this year.
  • 22,000 transactions will be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next 60 minutes.
  • 1,314 phone calls will be misplaced by telecommunication services every minute.
  • 268,500 defective tires will be shipped this year.
  • 14,208 defective PCs will be shipped this year.
  • 103,260 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly this year.
  • 5,517,200 cases of soft drinks produced in the next 12 months will be flatter than a bad tire.
  • 3,065 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the three sections.
  • 18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled in the next hour.
  • 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly this year.
  • 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
  • $9,690 will be spent today, tomorrow, next Thursday, and every day in the future on defective, often unsafe sporting equipment.
  • 55 malfunctioning automatic teller machines will be installed in the next 12 months.
  • 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next 12 months.
  • 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year.
  • 315 entries in Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language will turn out to be misspelled.
  • Two plane landings daily at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago will be unsafe.
  • 12 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.

Given statistics like those, does a pan of overbaked cookies seem like such a big deal?  It is, if your standards are as high as they should be.  And never stop trying to exceed those standards.

Take it from Orison Swett Marden, founder of SUCCESS magazine, "The quality of your work will have a great deal to do with the quality of your life." 

Here's a work/life example that illustrates his point.  

In ancient Rome, when the scaffolding was removed from a completed Roman arch, the law read that the Roman engineer who built the arch had to stand beneath it.  The point was that if the arch came crashing down, he would experience the responsibility first hand.  As a result, the Roman engineer knew that the quality of his work was crucial and would have a direct personal impact on his life.

Mackay's Moral:  There is no substitute for quality.