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Lessons from the Thrift: Settling for Relative Best

08/16/2012

Jason and I had a pretty decent thrifting weekend. With minimal effort—a couple of yard sales and a brief stop at the Goodwill—we walked away with a pair of mid-century lamps, a tiny hairpin leg footstool and a pair of sneakers for Ali.

If you do much thrift store / yard sale shopping, you’ve probably had moments like I had Sunday evening where I look at one of my purchases and say, “What was I thinking?!”

As we were walking through the used shoe section of the store, Jason spotted a pair of brown leather, slightly-dressy sneakers. They were clean and classy-looking but too small for him. They fit me! I bought them for $6. Later, when I tried them on at home I realized not only are they too tight, they’re most certainly mens’ shoes and I’m not sure I even really like them that much.

What happened? Compared to all the dirty, beat-up, well-loved shoes surrounding them, these sneakers practically jumped off the rack. They were the best shoes—relative to the crap surrounding them. I’m pretty sure there’s a bigger lesson here.

Jason, a passionate guitarist for almost 20 years, has often said, “If you’re the best one in the room—get out!” Best in the room doesn’t automatically equate to greatness. If you surround yourself with mediocrity, you’re in danger of lowering your standards and settling for less than the best. That’s exactly what I did.

All that to say, I need to constantly check my filter to make sure what I’m seeing as good is truly excellence and not just the relative best.

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