Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Do It Poorly

My pastor made an odd statement. “Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.” It surprised me at first. I kept thinking about it until I decided what my response needed to be.

Many people are shocked by such a statement. Others scandalized. Immediately, I fell somewhere in between those. This is not our cultural norm. This is not what I had been taught growing up. “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” Is what I heard. The idea being: “don’t half-ass what you do.”

I have tried to impart this concept to my kids. Do your best at whatever you do. You don’t have to be the best. It’s even okay if you are the worst if you tried to the best of your abilities.

But this path leads to perfectionism and immobilization.

It is easy to slip from doing my best to being the best. Or to constantly question if what you just did really, truly is your best. Once that loop starts you may never finish because you continue to try to improve something and never finish. The first time I tried to right a novel, I rewrote the first chapter twelve times before I realized I would never get to chapter two at this pace.

Knowing that you will never be happy with your results, leads to not even trying. Why start if you can’t finish? Makes sense in most decision making logic.

But the intent of my pastor’s statement falls more to the side of, anything helps.

There is an old tale of a man walking along a beach at low tide, picking up sea stars stranded on the sand and tossing them into the water. Another fellow sees him doing it and the enormity of the task at hand. Thousands of sea stars were stranded. There was no way the first man could save them all. The second man pointed this out, telling the first, “there are too many; you will never make a difference.” The first man picked up another and tossed it into the sea. “Made a difference to that one.”

Often the idea of trying to do something doesn’t seem possible, so it isn’t worth starting. I can’t make a difference in the big picture.

Often, the thought of not being able to do something well or perfectly, prevents us from ever starting.

Sometimes, we just have to suck at something to learn how to do it. We can’t figure out how to do it perfectly before we start or we will never start.

For most people, giving a speech is terrifying. They dread speaking. And the idea that they will probably flounder makes them more scared. The problem is, to get good at speaking, you have to speak. Often. That means, somewhere along the line, you have to give a first speech. And probably suck at it. If speaking is worth doing, you have to do it. You have to start poorly and work your way up.

If cancer research waited for a solution to begin searching for the solution it would never happen. The starting point is ignorance and guesses and certain failure. But starting is crucial to ever having a path to lead to success.

The same is true of any artistic endeavor, athletic challenge and even some business situations.

Sure, you can learn and prepare. You can develop your plan from other people’s successes and failures. But you have to step out and stumble along your own path.

Risk is a value at the core of this. If something matters to you, try it. If you want to see the world become a better place, try creating or perpetuating that change. Even if you fail at it at first.

If it is something worth doing, something that really matters to you, do it. Start poorly. Learn and grow as you continue. Don’t try to get it all figured out perfectly first. Do it now.


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