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 one 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. When I was a kid, I’d find the easiest way to finish a chore, 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 important. But, it also doesn’t tell the whole story.
Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly
The whole story is actually that anything really worth doing is worth doing poorly. I first saw this quote in relation to mental health. I’m fairly certain it was on Twitter, and I apologize to whoever started the thread, but I don’t remember who it was.
The idea was that if you are hurting, even the smallest 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 are able to rinse 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.
My first blog posts sucked. I didn’t know a thing about SEO, or how to write content for a reader. (OK, 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. Blogging poorly led me to blogging well.
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.
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.
There are people who work on their blogs for months before ever going live. They want to have tons of posts ready, or the perfect theme, or everything set up perfectly. And that’s a valid 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 6 months for things to be perfect, you will have to wait another 18 months to rank. Instead, you could post your 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 the perfect opportunity will ensure that you keep waiting. Perfect doesn’t exist.
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, according to Higher Education, the quote 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.
It really doesn’t matter what the original quote meant a hundred years ago though. What matters is how we use it now. I’m a big fan of using it in the positive sense. It’s important to do the small things you can do, and it’s also important to just start doing something even if your 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.
So what are you going to start doing poorly today?
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.