Things worth doing, worth trying, and not worth your effort
“Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”
- Lord Chesterfield (1694 – 1773)
“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”
- Hunter S. Thompson
“Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
- Ron Swanson of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”
No matter how you look at it or to whom you look for a great quote about it, we humans strive for excellence. Throughout history, we as a species have faced innummerable insurmountable odds – floods, plagues, sabre-toothed tigers, the Kardashians – and have always managed to not only survive, but thrive.
It’s that innate drive, coupled with our intelligence and curiosity, that has propelled us from drawing on cave walls to writing Elizabethan sonnets, from discovering fire to sending men to the moon. It is our constant quest for knowledge, wisdom, and self-discovery that has allowed us to create life-changing inventions like vaccines, automobiles, computers, and Moxie.
So why do some people just not bother?
A couple of months ago, I came across a book-review blog (which shall remain nameless). The most recent posting, dated July 2012, was a review of the book, The Hunger Games. Now, considering the fact that the book was originally published in 2008, the fellow writing this review seemed to be a tad late to the party. The movie, of course, just came out earlier this year – so a book review at this point was, to say the least, overdue.
But then I read it.
Paraphrasing – but almost word-for-word – the review went as follows: “I’ve heard alot about this book; if it’s anything like the movie, this is probably pretty good.”
I was dumbfounded. I actually started yelling at my poor computer for wasting the 40 seconds or so of my life that it took to find and read that insightful and eye-opening ‘review.’
The question I kept asking this faceless ‘book reviewer’ was…”Why bother?!?”
If you’re not going to even try to make an effort, why waste the time? Maybe it’s because I value quality, perhaps it’s because I value my time…but I simply cannot wrap my head around why anyone would voluntarily undertake a project they have absolutely no desire to actually DO, much less complete. Am I missing something?
The $5000 idea…that wasn’t:
Here’s another one: A businessman I know recently told me about his wife’s idea to sell crafts at the local fairs and flea markets; she knew what was popular and trendy, she had researched what she’d need, and thought it would be fun and profitable. So my friend and his wife agreed to go forward with it.
That was three years ago.
At the time of this writing, nearly $5000 worth of merchandise remains packed away in their garage, waiting to be brought somewhere – anywhere – and be sold.
According to my friend, his wife became disinterested in the idea before she ever got the idea off the ground.
Again I ask, “Why bother??”
Is it laziness? Apathy? Disillusionment?
Forget, “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”…how about, “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth trying to do well.” Or, “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth making an effort to try to do well.” Or even, “if something’s worth considering doing, at least try to pretend to do it well, so others don’t write blog posts about you.”
I can understand if someone poorly performs a task they don’t actually want to do; I may or may not respect that, but I can understand it. I can also understand a less-than-stellar performance from someone who is still learning the task. Failure isn’t always a bad thing – it’s the best way to learn, in many instances. But in these cases, we’re talking about people who voluntarily decided to not even attempt a goal they set for themselves. If you don’t want to review books, don’t! If you’d rather not hit the flea market circuit, don’t purchase enough inventory to start up your own mall anchor store!
Quitting = Liberating
Don’t get me wrong; if you don’t want to do whatever you’ve decided to do…it’s ok to change your mind. But isn’t it better to simply cease whatever you’re doing rather than turn in a half-baked performance?
Are you struggling to get that first or second book published? Ask yourself if you really enjoy the process: the writing, the revising, the querying, the rejection. If you find it difficult to be motivated to do the work…the work is probably suffering. No one said you can’t stop.
Are you getting frustrated with the number of auditions or casting calls you’re being passed on, and wondering if you should keep at it? Again, ask yourself if you enjoy what you’re doing – and if the answer is no, find something you do enjoy. The only person putting pressure on you…is you.
Talent = Overrated
The difference between excellence and mediocrity is not necessarily talent. Very often, tenacity beats brains, practice beats natural ability, and hard work beats luck. (For the record, that last one is almost always true). Nothing against talent, it’s certainly important – but it’s not the be-all and end-all. I frequently play soccer and basketball with some of the folks in town, and although I’m one of the least-qualified players on any field I step onto, I hold my own. Why? Because, as I’ve told them, what I lack in talent I make up for in hustle.
Do you have hustle?
Are you making an effort?
Take a look at your life and see if there are projects, activities, or responsibilities you have taken on that you would rather not deal with. Are you doing them well? Are you trying to do them well? Are you doing them at all? There are probably plenty of folks out there who can and will do them – better than you. Are you ok with that?
It’s your call.