What can you lose and still achieve the same result?

I remember reading that the grocery store chain Wegmans opted to remove the apostrophe from its name after calculating the cost of proper punctuation.  Each large neon letter and symbol outside of the front doors ran upwards of a half million dollars, and the company's chief decision makers decided that an apostrophe simply was not worth that kind of money.  Sure, the name technically is not grammatically correct, but who really misses the tiny curly line?  That's what the brand banked on, anyway, and it seems that their bet paid off.

I've been thinking about the idea of losing and gaining a lot recently.  You know the Ninety Ten Rule--that the first ninety percent of the task takes ninety percent of the time, and the last ten percent takes the other ninety percent?  Some may say that it's the Eighty Twenty Rule, but regardless, the idea is that the most bang for your buck comes not from the details and minutia, which are the true time suckers, but the work at the beginning.  That's not to say the details aren't sometimes crucial--we want perfection when we are talking about brakes on a car or heart surgery--but I continue to go back to the Wegmans sign: When should we settle for good enough?

Do hours of extra work always translate into noticeable results?  I think about times when I've made fudge with a double boiler and candy thermometer and times when I've made it in the microwave--the microwave version always receives way more compliments and requests for the recipe.  Or when I edit and edit and edit a piece of writing only still to be over the word limit.  Or the occasions when someone puts weeks into perfecting a work presentation but it does not go over, not because the presentation was lacking, but because there were fundamental differences in vision.

Letting go is not something that our culture prizes.  How much better does it seem, after all, to brag about the three hours of sleep you got last night because you were working so hard than boasting about the relaxing evening you enjoyed unwinding with your family followed by a reasonable amount of rest?

But it is a value I continue to want to hold up and explore further.  For one thing, letting go enables us to have full, rich, well-rounded lives.  For another thing, it reminds us that we are not the center of the universe: If we let go, life will still go on, work will still get done.  But most of all, how much really stands to be lost by stepping back--or maybe more importantly, what stands to be gained?

Emily Rowell Brown