Why Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

I was coaching one of my athletes through a technical snatch session earlier this week, and during some analysis and feedback had to shut down their opinion that the set in question had been shit. This led me to think about, and expand upon, the idea that ‘perfection is the enemy of the good’.

This is something I say quite frequently, but what do I actually mean by it?

We were looking at some technical snatch drills, namely focussing on the correlative positions between power snatching and snatching, with heavy emphasis on a seamless meeting of the bar and rigidity in the associated positions. In case you were wondering!

After a somewhat shaky start my athlete started to get to grips with what I was looking for, and started hitting some good lifts. They were really good, they were lighting up my ‘Happy Coach’ buttons beautifully!

However, after one particularly good and consistent set she said that it had been: ‘rubbish, I moved my feet out too much’. Now, in isolation this statement was accurate. Jumping her feet out too much (and we’re talking a couple of centimetres here) left her with a slightly restricted receive position. That’s it. Not dangerous, not technically wrong, just SLIGHTLY RESTRICTED.

Matthias Steiner
Even the very best sometimes get it wrong!


Had I chosen to focus on that, the session could have fallen apart. We would have tried to correct it, almost certainly to the detriment of the remainder of the session. As a novice weightlifter this can definitely be harmful to overall development.

Yes we should strive to learn excellent positions. Yes we should look to be better every single fucking day. Yes we should aim to be the best that we can possibly be. HOWEVER, consider my evaluation of the set here:

  • Start position with accurate weight distribution: GOOD
  • Tight and active back position: GOOD
  • Hamstrings loaded and shoulders over the bar at the knee: GOOD
  • Bringing the bar into the hip to hit the ‘power position’: GOOD
  • Full extension and completed pull: GOOD
  • Keeping the bar close: GOOD
  • Sharp pull under the bar: GOOD
  • Receiving the bar in a strong and rigid position: GOOD
  • Foot width upon landing: SLIGHTLY RESTRICTED

Do you see my point? By virtually all measures it was a damn fine set. I liked it. I wanted more sets that were just the same.

Sometimes we should focus on the good, and repeat it over and over, striving for being CONSISTENTLY good, whilst steadily eradicating weaknesses. If we only focus on what prevents us from being completely perfect we cannot possibly achieve the high standards we are striving for. Nobody starts at perfect. First we are shit. Then we are reasonable. Then we are good.

If we continue this process relentlessly, one day we may even be perfect.