Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. I’ve seen this quote floating around Twitter and even on Reddit. And you know what? It speaks to me. Because it’s true. If something is worth doing – it is worth doing poorly. And I know that flies in the face of conventional wisdom- which is the sister phrase “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” But hear me out.

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well                                                 

We’ve all heard this from our parents, teachers, and everyone else in society. If you’re going to do something, you should do it well. You should do it right the first time.

And okay, it does make sense. Don’t half-ass something. I’d find the easiest way to finish a chore when I was a kid, even if I knew it wasn’t technically the “correct” way. I’d push all my garbage under my bed in my room to make the floor look clean. My parents were pissed when they discovered that one!

Cleaning my room actually was worth doing well, and I was perfectly capable of doing it. I only didn’t do it because I was lazy. And that’s why I think this first quote is essential. But, it also doesn’t tell the whole story.

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly

The whole story is that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. I first saw this quote concerning mental health. I’m fairly certain it was on Twitter, and I apologize to whoever started the thread; I don’t remember who it was.

 

The idea was that if you are hurting, even the most minor tasks, like getting out of bed, showering, and brushing your teeth, seem insurmountable. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy to wash your hair but can rinse yourself off. It’s okay if you can’t brush your teeth for the dentist-recommended two minutes, but you can give them a quick once over. It’s better to do these things poorly than not at all, and we should celebrate the small wins when we have them. You brushed your teeth – if even for just thirty seconds. That’s a huge win!

It’s True for Everything

I don’t think this idea only applies to mental health. I think it applies to everything! Anything you are interested in doing is worth doing poorly.

Love art? Throw some paint on a canvas. Love writing? Start typing out that story. Love music? Pick up that instrument and start playing. Yes, you’re going to suck at any of those things at first. But you know what? If you love it, it will be worth it.

anything worth doing is worth doing poorly
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My first blog posts sucked. I didn’t know a thing about SEO or how to write content for a reader. (okay, maybe I still don’t know how to do that, but I’m getting better!). But you know what? I felt that blogging was worth it, so I did it – poorly. I’ve put out two blog posts a week for nearly three years, and each post gets better and better. I finally feel like I’m doing it well after years of doing it poorly. And you know what? It was worth it. Being bad at blogging helped me become good at blogging.

Hopefully, the same will be true for Youtube. I just started my channel, and my first videos are horrendous. But they got me a few subscribers. I’m learning and growing with each new video I create. It’s worth doing poorly because doing it poorly will eventually lead to doing it well.

The same concept rings true for anything you want to do, from art to gaming, fitness to cooking, cleaning to productivity. You will not be good at anything when you first start. Have the courage to start anyway. Dare to try!

Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

There’s a related phrase, often attributed to Winston Churchill “Perfection is the Enemy of Progress.” And it’s true. If you spend all your time trying to get something perfect, you’ll never be able to move on.

Some people work on their blogs for months before ever going live. They want to have a hundred posts ready, have the perfect theme, build a social following, or do any of a thousand other little tasks first to make sure their launch is perfect. And that’s a reasonable goal – but they are also losing out on the time that Google needs to index their site. It typically takes over 18 months for Google to decide that it should rank a new site – so if you wait six months for things to be perfect, you will have to wait another 18 months to rank. Instead, you could post less than stellar content, let Google learn who you are, and then only have to wait 12 more months to rank.

Churchill said this long before blogging and Google were things. And that’s because it’s relevant to everything. Waiting for the perfect time or opportunity will only ensure that you keep waiting and never start. Nothing will ever be perfect. 

No One Starts Out Good At Anything

We love to elevate the myth of natural talent. The person who excelled at everything immediately was a self-made success, never made mistakes. We celebrate the idea of “overnight success,” ignoring the years of hard work that went into it. 

The truth is success rarely happens overnight. Even Micheal Jorden, the best basketball player of all time, was cut from his varsity team. It took discipline, motivation, and commitment to keep playing and become as great as he is. Sure, natural ability played a part, but he would never have been a star without dedication. 

 

The same is true for almost everything. Einstein may have been born with natural genius, but his commitment to nurturing it is what made him one of the most famous scientists of all time. Vincent Van Gogh spent five years studying before creating what he considered his first masterpiece

The expectation that you will be great at something the first time you try it is absurd and detrimental. Instead, give yourself the grace to be bad at something, but believe in yourself enough to know that you can get better. Practice, persevere and keep working on the things that you love. You will get better over time, and you will become happier overall because you succeeded at the thing you put all this effort into. 

Inspire Others to Do Things Poorly

The fear of failure and judgment is rampant in our society. Understandably, people would be afraid to be bad at something, especially considering our culture’s awful to people who fail. We have no safety nets for taking risks. We don’t celebrate people until they win. 

Be the change you want to see in the world. Spread positivity rather than negativity when friends and acquaintances try new things. Support those who try, and be less critical to yourself and others when their first attempts aren’t so great. 

Accomplishing this may take a mindset shift. It’s hard to overcome years of conditioning and change the way you behave towards others and yourself. And that’s okay. Give yourself compassion and grace, and try to show kindness to others. Show gratitude when they do the same for you. Together, we can shift our culture and achieve our dreams. 

Who Said Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly?

You’d think that most quotes like this would have easy attributions – but that’s not always the case. The best attribution I can find is “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” which comes from a quote written by G.K.  Chesterton in Orthodoxy (1908). However, the section is often said incorrectly and misinterpreted according to Higher Education. The original intent behind the quote appears to be that people should do things for themselves, even if they are bad at it.

However, it doesn’tmatter what the original quote meant a hundred years ago. What matters is how we use it now. I’m a big fan of using it in the positive sense. It’s essential to do the small things you can do, and it’s also important to just start doing something even if you are bad at it. Anything worth doing is doing poorly – because doing it poorly at the start will lead to doing it better as you learn and grow.

 

More Inspirational Quotes

If anything worth doing is worth doing poorly from Chesterton is motivation enough, look to this small sampling of quotes from inspiring motivational figures. These words of wisdom relate to the original quote and take it a step forward. 

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody”

-Maya Angelou

I think this quote represents the idea that things worth doing are worth doing poorly in a different way. We often shy away from doing something because we’re worried about what others will think. It’s not our judgment we’re afraid of; it’s the judgment of others. So we procrastinate and don’t even try something new because we’re so worried about what others will think if it’s not “good enough.” The truth is, it is good enough, and those naysayers don’t matter. You don’t have to prove yourself to them!

“You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great”

-Zig Ziglar

This Zig Ziglar quote restates our premise differently. Don’t worry if you aren’t great when you start. No one is! But the truth is that the only way to get better, the only way to achieve greatness, is to start from where you are. You will get better over time if you stick with it. You can’t change your life if you don’t start, right?

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop”

-Confuscious

Confuscious is a well-known Chinese wise man and prophet. His sayings and proverbs spawned an epic following and still ring true today. This quote can be seen as a follow-up to “anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” It’s not about starting, but it’s about continuing, even if you aren’t successful at first. Does it matter if it takes two or five years to complete your novel, or does it matter that you finish it? It doesn’t matter how bad you are at something when you start. What matters is that you start, learn, grow, and get better. 

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail”
-Ralph Waldo Emmerson

This inspiring message really gets to the heart of doing something poorly. We often don’t act because we’re afraid of failure. Why is failure seen as such a bad thing? If you never fail at something, that usually means you never tried something! We could spend our lives in the safety of never failing, but then we’d never achieve anything. What is the point of living if you can’t be yourself, challenge yourself, attempt new things, fail at them, and get better?

“Quality is not an act, it’s a habit”

-Aristotle

Even the ancient Greeks knew that getting good at something takes time. This quote by Aristotle showcases that perseverance is the key to creating a quality product. Doing something once isn’t what makes you great. Making a habit of what you want to do ultimately leads to success.

Motivational Words are Just the Start

These five quotes are only the tip of the iceberg. They are meant to provide you encouragement to start something and the motivation to stick with it. Although the key to success can’t be found in an inspirational quote, it’s a great place to start. Write your favorites down and repeat them every morning as an affirmation. 

But the real trick is in implementing these life quotes. Use them to shift your mindset, embrace positive thinking, and as a permission slip to try that thing that you always wanted to try!

What Are You Going to Start Doing Poorly Today?

What things in your life are worth doing poorly? Dream big. Start that book or business. Pick up a musical instrument. Try something you’ve always wanted to try. There’s nothing wrong with being bad at anything when you first start. In fact, most people are! The truth is that if you don’t start, you’ll never get better, and you’ll never achieve your dreams. 

Start something. Be bad at it. Do it poorly – at first. But as time goes by, you’ll get better. And you’ll see that starting is only the first step on a lifelong journey towards living the life you want. 

1 thought on “Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly”

  1. Perfection IS the enemy of progress, but also the enemy of creativity.

    I watched my mother struggle with it most of my life. She was also a skilled seamstress and quiltmaker. I, much to her changrin, was not afflicted with the same perfectionism. Pretty sure she redid all of my science fair presentations because I couldn’t cut a straight line to save my life. 😀

    Your post has a great message for those who are struggling. Maybe you aren’t up to doing anything “well” today. Try to do something anyway – it’ll feel like a huge win.

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