If It’s Worth Doing Then It’s Worth Doing Poorly

“Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” Those words were penned by Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, in a letter to his son back in 1774.

The 4th Earl of Chesterfield knew was he was talking about. There is no purpose in doing anything worth doing unless you intend to do it well. 

At least eventually. 

Successful people are willing to do something poorly until they can do it well. Often very well. There was a kid who lived in North Carolina and loved basketball. He wanted to play for his high school team. He gave a mighty effort to make the team but he wasn’t good enough. The sophomore at Laney High School didn’t make the varsity team, instead he was sent to the Junior Varsity to develop more. 

He was told that his shooting was okay but his defense was mediocre. Plus, he wasn’t nearly tall enough at 15 years old to be guaranteed a spot on the team. He went home after hearing the news and cried alone in his bedroom.

Lots of people would have given up at that point. He could easily have been one of them. He could have decided to switch sports and give his second favorite sport, baseball, a try. But he persisted. He was willing to play basketball poorly until he could play it well. 

He worked and worked. Made bad shot after bad shot, until most of his shots weren’t that bad. He worked especially on his defense. He began to enjoy denying other people the opportunity to make a shot almost as much as he enjoyed making his own. Oh, and he grew a bunch too. 

But it was his willingness to play poorly (keep in mind “poorly” is a relative term) until he could play well (well is a relative term too) that made him into the player he turned out to be. He became a good enough player that he actually played for a bit in the National Basketball Association. He even contributed to his team winning some games. 

Less successful people often give up when they are right on the cusp of making most of their shots. They become demoralized with doing something poorly so they stop trying. They likely have a lot of “help” in becoming demoralized as the people around them continue to reinforce the notion they that aren’t very good. 

If you want great success then you must be willing to do something poorly until you improve enough to do it well. Few people succeed on their first attempt. 

But, here’s the caveat. You must be honest with yourself while attempting to move from a poor performance to a great performance. You must have some form of measurement in place to objectively evaluate whether or not you are making progress. Once you objectively make that determination you’ll know what to do. 

But whatever you do, don’t quit. Perhaps stop trying to make the basketball team and go out for the debate team. Trying something else is NOT quitting. It is redirecting your efforts to an area where your chances of success are greater. That’s called being strategic.

Oh by the way…that high school basketball player who couldn’t make the varsity…his name is Michael Jordan. You can Google him if you’re interested in knowing more about the guy many people consider the GOAT. 

Sticking With What Works

Ya know, there are “things” that just work. But some people insist on trying to make them work better. Why can’t they leave well enough alone?

I vaguely remember, at least I think I remember, seeing an old washing machine in the house where I grew up. Attached to the top of it were a couple of rollers. I don’t remember ever seeing it work but apparently when the washing machine was done you put the clothes through the rollers and it would squeeze all the water out of the clothes. I think those were around for a while so they must have worked at least okay.

Yet somebody decided they didn’t work well enough. So they made the washing machine “better” by adding a cycle where the tub spins around real fast and that somehow forces the water out of the clothes. As I have no experience with the old machines with the rollers I can’t say from experience if the new way is better or not. 

Now most of you are thinking at this point the it’s obvious that the new way of washing clothes is much better than the old way. But here’s my question for you.

If we were back in the day of the old fashioned washing machines how many of you would have taken the initiative to make it better? How many of you would have complained about it every time you washed clothes? How many of you would have said, “somebody ought to do something about this?”

How many of you have ever stopped long enough to realize you’re somebody?

The most successful people don’t ask why. They ask why not. They don’t say “somebody” ought to do it. They say, “I’m going to do it.” The most successful people act on their thoughts. 

Here’s an idea, the next time you see a problem don’t complain about it. Don’t hope “somebody” does something. Make the decision to do something about it yourself. Even if you see something that appears to be working well look a little deeper and ask yourself if it could work better. 

Then do something that most people won’t do…TAKE ACTION. 

Sticking with what works makes sense right up until somebody makes something that works better. Why not be that somebody today?

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month people can follow a part of my Twitter steam that is for subscribers only. It features primarily short videos of me talking about the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page. http://twitter.com/leadtoday (You may need to refresh the page to see the Super Follow Button) Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does. 

Being the Best Isn’t Good Enough

If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse! Even if you’re already the best improvement is still a possibility, not just a possibility but a requirement.

Tony Gwynn, the Hall of Fame baseball player said….”The minute you’re satisfied with where you are you’re not there anymore.”

As soon as you stop trying to improve the inevitable slide towards mediocrity begins. No matter how good you are at something the moment you lose the drive to improve is the moment you’re no longer the best.

Some people will say they are “satisfied with where they are at and have no need to be the best. They are good at what they do and “good” is good enough. What they don’t realize is that when they don’t try to improve they also begin the backwards slide to being less than good.

The most successful people never stop trying to be better. They never stop trying to learn more. They never stop looking for a better way. They have no idea what their potential is because they are always working to accomplish more. They know that where they are today is only a starting point.

Where you are tomorrow matters far more than where you were yesterday.

If you’re not doing something, learning something, or making something that will help you be better tomorrow than you are today then you’re short-changing yourself. You very well may be costing yourself the future that you deserve.

Stop making excuses about why you can’t______________, (the blank is for you to fill in) and just start doing it. Stop settling for less than you deserve and push yourself to earn what you want.

You’re not too old to learn and you’re not too young to accomplish great things. In almost any realistic goal you can think of accomplishing the greatest obstacle you face is your own self-doubt.

So the heck with the doubts, to heck with the people who have told you that you can’t. You absolutely can be better tomorrow than you are today. You absolutely can know more tomorrow than you know today. You totally can do more tomorrow than you did today. You only have to make the decision that you will.

Never settle for being the best, you can be much better than that!

The Flames of Discontent

The most successful people know that good enough really isn’t. In fact, they know that good enough is just a mirage and accepting anything as “good enough” merely puts you on the path to mediocrity. 

 

Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres Baseball great said that the minute you’re satisfied with where you’re at you’re not there anymore. In that same vein, the second you believe what you’ve done is good enough it isn’t. 

 

Authentic Leaders do not accept good enough from themselves or their people. They fan the flames of constructive discontent until the desire for improvement burns hotter than the comfort of the current.

 

Those leaders take a humble pride in their accomplishments but ensure their future success by realizing that they can do better. They drive towards continual continuous improvement and bring their people and organization along for the ride. 

 

Introspection is a key for constructively discontented leaders. They evaluate their performance and then reevaluate. You’ll never hear them explaining that the reason they do something is simply because they always have. They know exactly why they do what they do and they know that one day they will do it differently…. and better. 

 

Leaders who long for improvement learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. They realize that if they aren’t trying something new from time to time then they simply aren’t trying at all. They accept the risk of failure as the price for continual success and are not afraid to take a path that others didn’t even see. 

 

They are careful not to “read their own press.” They accept the recognition that comes with success but have pretty short memories and they use their past success only to guide themselves even higher. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders use their own success to help their people achieve uncommon results. Sometimes they push their people towards success, sometimes they pull them and oftentimes they come along side of them to bring them on a common journey. 

 

They fall at times but that only slows their climb, it does not stop them. 

 

The most successful leaders, and the most successful people, know that continued success lies in finding contentment in constructive discontent. They are never fully satisfied but that in its own way is uniquely satisfying to highly successful people. 


If you’re satisfied with where you’re at or with what you’ve accomplished then get yourself unsatisfied as soon as possible anyway you can. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and your success will know no limits.