Messy Success Is Better Than Perfect Mediocrity

Kevin Eikenberry is a friend of mine.  He publishes a great ezine called “Unleashing Your Remarkable Potential.”  If you’re not a subscriber, I suggest you log on to  and register.  Kevin’s ezine contains some great life and career success advice.

I got an email from Kevin the other day in which he apologized for a bad link in his ezine.  He sent the correct link and then said something that is really good career advice. “Messy success is better than perfect mediocrity.”  This is one way of saying – let’s take action, not make sure everything is perfect.

Kevin is right.  Neither of us suggest that you produce sloppy work.  And we both suggest that action is the key to life and career success.  Some people spend so much time getting things perfect that they miss opportunity.  They look for that one piece of information that will make their idea, report or presentation perfect. 

Often, the search for this information can take so much time, that the idea, report or presentation loses relevance by the time it is found.  I can be guilty of this on occasion myself.

Tweet 99 in my career success book, Success Tweets says, “Get the job done with what you’ve got.  Don’t worry about what you don’t have or would like to have.”

I studied journalism as an undergraduate.  Journalism is a great major.  It teaches you to write.  It keeps you up on current events.  And most of all, it provides you with the discipline of meeting deadlines.  Bob Farson was my advisor at Penn State.  He never accepted a late assignment.  He never gave an incomplete in a course.  Every journalism student in my day heard his mantra over and over again…

“There is no late in journalism.  You can’t put out a blank paper.  A good reporter will never have everything he wants for a story.  You’ve got to learn to go with what you’ve got and do the best job you can with it.”

Bob Farson’s advice – “go with what you’ve got” – really stuck with me.  I finished my four years at Penn State, got an MA at The University of Colorado and a PhD at Harvard, and never missed a deadline.  I never asked for an extension, and I never took an incomplete in a course.

I never worked as a journalist, but my journalism education taught me the importance of getting the job done with what I have – and that, in turn, helped me create the life and career success I so badly wanted.

When it comes to deadlines, I find that people make two types of mistakes: 1) They miss them because they are always looking for that one additional piece of information that will bring everything together perfectly; 2) They get so focused on making them that they don’t dig deep enough to find all the information they need to do an outstanding job.

Both are problems.  When I say “go with what you’ve got,” I mean you need to find the right balance of gathering all the information you need and still meet the deadline.  Avoid problem number 1 by realizing that you’ll never know everything you want to know about a given subject.  I’ve been a career success coach for 20 years, and I still learn new stuff about life and career success every day. 

Avoid problem number 2 by not getting overly focused on the deadline.  If you do, you run the risk of not doing as good a job as you can on any given project.  Go with what you’ve got only after you do an exhaustive information search and make sure that you have all the information you can possibly find and still make the deadline.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people meet deadlines.  They follow the career advice in Tweet 99 in Success Tweets.  “Get the job done with what you have.  Don’t worry about what you don’t have, or would like to have.”  Take personal responsibility for doing the work with what you have – or getting what you need to do the work well.  If you don’t have what you need, do whatever it takes to get it.  Make sure you have what you need to do your job well.  Taking personal responsibility for getting the job done – with what you have, not what you want – will set you apart from the pack and put you on the road to the life and career success you want and deserve.

That’s the career advice I take from Kevin Eikenberry’s comment on messy success.  What are your thoughts on this?  Please take a minute and share them with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS – Success Tweets Explained, a 395 page companion book to Success Tweets is now available.  It  will sell for $39.95 on, but you can get a free download.  Just go to to claim your copy.

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