This saying is pretty much my life’s philosophy. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” I know at first blush it probably seems very strange. It’s the opposite of most inspirational quotes and logos. And it’s definitely a 180 degree take on the more positive original quote: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”
But the saying has stuck with me, and maybe it’s because I first heard these words spoken by a pastor at my church. But why in the world would a pastor recommend that we do something poorly? Somehow this doesn’t quite seem like it is in keeping with our call to excellence as believers, does it?
Against all odds and initial impressions, I have found a sense of freedom and daring in this quote, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” It has stuck with me over the years because it has reminded me that what I do doesn’t have to be perfect. I can try anything from silly things—like attempting a forward flip into a pool or a reaching for a certain high note while singing along with the radio—to the more serious—serving on a mission trip to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 or launching a nutrition podcast last year when I had never even listened to a podcast before.
The list of things I’ve dared to attempt is longer than this, of course. And some of my attempts have fallen short of the end goal, but that’s okay. Truthfully, that’s part of the empowering beauty of the quote. I have learned (and continue to learn) to let go of a spirit of perfectionism that I grew up with. Perfectionism can stop and stifle me. It probably does the same to you. It tells us “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t” and there’s always some reason why that follows (e.g. “you’ve never tried it before,” or “you tried before and failed,” or “what would people think?”) But notice that those “reasons” are actually very poor. They are accusatory and defeating. And they are essentially excuses for inaction.
If I had only attempted what I could get “right,” I might have
None of the fears and concerns (in parentheses, to minimize their importance) stopped me from proceeding with what I thought was worth doing. And I am thankful. Why don’t you make a list of your own just now—highlighting things you’ve attempted, though you weren’t sure you could perfectly pull them off? And then look ahead to what might be next. Don’t let perfectionism trip you up or prevent you from doing the next right thing. My hope is that my list and your own will inspire you to go ahead with something new this week, this month and this year, even if you’re uncertain of the outcome. Comment on this post and let me know what you’re going to try because it’s worth doing!
And if my motto doesn’t grab you, hold onto this Scripture verse, which I see as quite related to all of the above. “Little children, let us not love with word or in tongue, but with action and in truth.” I John 3:18 Notice that the word “perfect” does not appear in that verse. But the word “action” does.
Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC metro Regional Director and Director of Communications for Body & Soul Fitness and teaches classes in Washington, DC. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast. For more encouragement from Hilda, go to holistichilda.com.