Line by Line

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing

posted February 27, 2014

Tags: inspiration, sayings

You're no doubt familiar with the old saying, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." What it means, of course, is that if something is important enough that you're bothering to do it in the first place, it's probably important enough to be worth the effort it takes to do it right.

You may also have heard G.K. Chesterton's famous statement, from What's Wrong with the World, "that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." It had a certain meaning in the book relating to women and their hobbies (and I'm just going to grit my teeth and set aside Chesterton's problems with women for the time being) but it's taken on a life of its own these days. It's often used to mean that if something is important enough that you're bothering to do it in the first place, it's important enough not to give up just because you aren't very good at it.

I try to take both of these to heart. In fact, taking only one of them to heart is a recipe for disaster. (Or at least failure.)

If you live by the maxim that anything worth doing is worth doing well, but you're not able to do it well, there's a good chance you won't do it. I speak from experience here: Perfectionism is a big reason that my art gallery (and this blog, for that matter) is rather sparse. I also have a habit of being so discouraged by my lack of skill that I don't enjoy practicing enough to keep doing it, leadng to a vicious cycle that makes it not worth doing the thing at all. Remember I mentioned the other day that I'm not good at music? This is why.

On the other hand, if you take "worth doing badly" as an excuse for doing things badly,'re going to do things badly. Which know...bad? Okay, to be less obvious about it, it's easy to take the phrase as an excuse to do a poor job of something and still feel good about yourself, because hey, you did it.

A balance between the two is necessary: You have to let go of perfectionism and actually get stuff done, but you also have to make sure you're giving it the effort it deserves.

So I've decided to adopt a new variation: Anything worth doing is worth doing! Okay, it's a tad tautological, but the idea is to take the emphasis off the adverbs and turn it to the act itself. If it's worth doing, then it's worth doing even if you're doing it badly, and worth continuing to do until you can do it well. Plus, it's an admonishment against laziness: "Dude, you just said it was worth doing, so do it!"

This is not easy, of course. Doing stuff is hard, and doing it well is even harder. But that's not the point. The point is that even if doing stuff is hard, it's worth it.