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Don’t Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good

My dad says this to me and my sisters all the time, and I used to think of it often in law school. The mantra applies particularly well to the bar, methinks, and since I’m currently studying for the bar on a train to Philly to tailgate the Kenny Chesney concert with my dad for Fathers Day, it seemed just too appropriate.

In some law schools, and especially in years past, the student earning the top grade on the final in a class would “get the book.” The professor would give the student the text for the class as a sort of prize. (Law schools really know their incentives, don’t they?) I sat in on a bar prep lecture by a judge who is both an alumni and an adjunct at our school, and he said, “They don’t give anyone the book for the bar exam.” 

For the first time in three years, we’re taking a test that, though curved, does not pit us against each other in the same way as a law exam. [And I feel I should pause here to say I was blessed to be in a wonderful first year section and to have great law school friends who did not look at my success as something keeping them down, or my failures as a chance to rise up, but those people were certainly out there.] For the bar, there’s no cum laude or yellow cords on a robe; there’s only pass and fail. 

Even if you wrote the perfect bar exam, no one will ever know it was perfect. All that really matters is that it’s good. Not even good, actually, just good enough.

So I’ll plod through all the assignments that Barbri gives me (or at least all that I can manage), and I’ll study a lot, but I’m not going for perfect, I’m going for good enough. And part of my good enough is making sure I work out, eat well — but not too well — have an occasional drink, and yes, spend time with family and friends at a tailgate 3 hours from my home. And I’ll thank my dad for letting me know it’s okay to think like that. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!