Anything Worth Doing…

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” I suppose everyone’s heard this, or some variant of it. It’s a seemingly harmless exhortation to do one’s best.

There is a caveat, though. What if one’s best isn’t very good? Should one refrain from doing what he can’t do well? And what is ‘well’ anyway?

I think most of us have said, “I’d like to do that, but I’m terrible at it,” or something to that effect. If what we mean is, “People would approve of that, but the thought of actually doing it gives me a pain,” well and good. Being ‘no good’ at something is a socially acceptable excuse for abstaining.

Sometimes though, we mean what we say. Pictures aren’t painted, songs remain unsung, stories unwritten, because those who might have created them are too embarrassed to let them see the light of day.

It’s true that lots of us are right to feel that our creative efforts don’t yield things of great artistic value. So what? No one is obliged to experience them. As long as that’s true, one who has a creative impulse and fails to act on it needlessly reduces his or her enjoyment of life.

Most of us, in fact, do things which we don’t like, and don’t do well. (Plumbing springs to mind.) We do them because we can do them well enough to achieve a functional result, and the alternative is to spend money we don’t have, or prefer to use some other way. Economy justifies our acceptance of a job done, ‘well enough.’

Why do we adopt a different standard when we consider engaging in activities we think we might like? After all, if we’re willing to do imperfectly something which we don’t enjoy, why should we be unwilling to do imperfectly something which we think we might find rewarding? Few people do anything well when they first attempt it. Most things must be learned. Even if one never becomes proficient, enjoyment of the attempt justifies making it.

I think doing a thing ‘well’ means doing it as well as you can at the time. Even if the quality of the work, judged objectively, isn’t great, if doing it satisfies one, why not do it?.

What is really worth doing is worth doing badly.