Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
The hot new twist on an old adage floating around social media unveils a powerful message. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom but highlights the inner truth, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.
How will you ever learn to do something well if you don’t practice doing it poorly first?
Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well
The original phrase, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” abounds in society. We hear it from parents, teachers, coaches, therapists, and everyone else seeking to inspire us.
The message is clear. If you’re going to do something, you should do it well. You should do it right the first time.
There is some good in the old saying. It makes sense to give an attempt your best shot. You should put your total effort into something rather than lazily throw something together with little regard for the outcome.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well means you should do your best to accomplish your task. It seeks to prevent carelessness and laziness while promoting effort.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Too many people freeze, thinking that if their first try isn’t perfect, they should just give up. That’s why the counterpart, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, also needs to be considered.
Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly
The whole story is that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
The original idea behind this quote was to promote positivity among those struggling with mental health. Even the most minor tasks, like getting out of bed, showering, or brushing your teeth, seem insurmountable if you’re hurting.
Remembering that things worth doing are worth doing poorly makes it okay to accomplish partial tasks when you can’t do the entire thing.
It’s okay to rinse yourself off if you lack the energy to wash your hair. It’s okay to give your teeth a quick once-over with a brush even if you can’t manage the full dentist-recommended two minutes.
It’s better to do these things poorly than not at all. 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!
Celebrate All of Your Attempts
The idea that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly applies well beyond mental health. Embrace it with all of your interests.
Love art? Throw some paint on a canvas. Love writing? Start typing out that story. Love music? Pick up that instrument and start playing.
The harsh truth is that you will be bad at all these things when you first start. The inspirational truth is that’s okay. If you love doing something, it’s worth doing even when you’re bad at it.
Examples of Doing Things Poorly
We practice what we preach on Partners in Fire. Our first blog posts were horrific. We didn’t know anything about SEO, engaging headlines, or how to write content readers would like. The content was short, bland, and often lacked fresh ideas.
Blogging was worth it, though. Educating and entertaining people is a worthwhile endeavor. Creating a massive resource for everyone interested in finding and funding their dreams is a commendable goal.
So we did it poorly at first. Those first awful posts served as valuable lessons and insight into the world of writing. They helped us learn and refine our craft. As we learned and grew, our content got better and better. The improved content went to huge publications like MSN, and now we even get published through the AP Newswire.
Being bad at blogging helped us become good at blogging.
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
A related phrase often attributed to Winston Churchill is “Perfection is the Enemy of Progress.”
This phrase rings true as well. If you spend all your time trying to get something perfect, you’ll never be able to move on. Perfect doesn’t exist.
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 a thousand other little tasks first to ensure their launch is perfect.
Putting your best foot forward seems like a reasonable goal. However, these bloggers are losing time. 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 wait 12 more months to rank.
Churchill said this long before blogging and Google existed. It’s relevant to everything. Waiting for the perfect time will ensure you keep waiting and never start. Nothing will ever be perfect.
No One Starts Out Good At Anything
Humanity loves to elevate the myth of natural talent. We celebrate the mythical person who immediately excels at everything, never making even a single mistake in their self-made rise to fame and fortune. We label winners as “overnight successes” while ignoring the years of hard work they put into their talent.
The truth is success rarely happens overnight.
Micheal Jorden, the greatest basketball player of all time, was cut from his varsity team. He earned his position through discipline and motivation. Jordan’s drive to keep trying after this rejection built upon his natural talent, allowing him to grow and develop into the impressive player he would become.
Albert Einstein may have been born with natural genius, but his commitment to nurturing it 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.
Practice Makes Perfect
The expectation that you will be great at something the first time you try it is absurd. Although natural talents help, nobody is great at something the first time they try it.
Rather than hold onto the unrealistic expectation that you shouldn’t attempt something unless it is flawless after the first attempt, give yourself the grace to be bad at something. Expect and celebrate your earliest imperfections. Allow for mistakes, learn from them, and build confidence in your skills as you grow.
One day, you’ll realize that all the practice and perseverance paid off. You’ll create a masterpiece, get a novel published, nail that solo, or land your dream job. Looking back, you’ll discover that all the failed first attempts and hours of practice led you to victory.
Shifting your mindset to realize anything worth doing is worth doing poorly may also take practice. It’s easy to get disheartened when things don’t turn out as expected, and it’s okay to have conflicting feelings about your earliest failures.
However, it’s important to remember that most people suffer similar setbacks. Believe in yourself. Keep practicing, keep working on the things that are important to you, and you will get better over time.
Inspire Others to Do Things Poorly
The fear of failure and judgment is rampant in our society. People are understandably afraid to be bad at something, especially considering our culture’s awful attitude toward failure.
We have no safety nets for risk-takers. We ridicule those who put their all into something and failed, telling them they “should have played it safe.” We also rudely criticize effort, gleefully pointing out every flaw in someone’s work to tear them down.
Culturally, our treatment of those who do things poorly is appalling, and 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 of 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 how you behave towards others and yourself.
That’s okay. Give yourself compassion and grace, and try to show kindness to others.
Who Said Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly?
The closest attribution is “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” which comes from a quote written by G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy (1908). However, according to Higher Education, the section is often said incorrectly and misinterpreted. 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’t matter what the original quote meant a hundred years ago. How we use it now matters, so let’s embrace the positive.
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 isn’t motivation enough, look to this small sampling of quotes from inspiring motivational figures. These words of wisdom relate to the original quote, often expanding upon the original idea to inspire people.
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody”
Maya Angelou highlights the idea that things worth doing are worth doing poorly differently. 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 restates our premise with an inspirational twist. 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 and 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 is a well-known Chinese wise man and prophet. His sayings and proverbs spawned an epic following and still ring true today. His quote represents a continuation of “anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
It’s not about starting but 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 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”
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 encourage people to start something and motivate them 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, try that thing you always wanted to try!
What Are You Going to Start Doing Poorly Today?
What are things in your life 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. Most people are! If you don’t start, you’ll never get better and 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.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.