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. 

The Decision to Try

All self-made successful people have one thing in common. They made the decision to try. I hesitate to say “self-made” since I’m not sure I’ve ever met a truly successful person who wasn’t aware that they had lots of help on their journey to success.

But whether they realize they received some help along the way or not that doesn’t change the fact that their success began with a decision to try.

One of the factors that prevent many people from trying is they wait until the timing is right to begin. Some of them wait until the timing is perfect. Those folks are likely still waiting.

People who try know that the best time to begin is now. People who try know that the best place to start is from wherever they are. People who try are willing to fail…bigly, if that is what it takes to eventually succeed. People who try have a 100% greater chance at success than those who don’t.

It is just my opinion but it’s much better to try and risk failure than it is to never try at all. I’d be willing to bet a sizable amount that people who try have far fewer regrets than people who don’t….whether they succeed or not.

I know for certain that people who try will never be failures even if they never achieve the full measure of success they sought. I’m not at all sure that can be said for those who are not willing to even try.

If you’re willing to try then craft a plan that gives you the best chance to succeed. Then put the plan into action assuming it will succeed. When it doesn’t then craft another, better plan and put that one into action with the absolute certainty that this time it will work. When it doesn’t then craft another, even better plan and launch yourself into it head first with complete confidence that you cannot fail.

If you’re wondering how many times you should do that don’t. Just keep doing it until your final best plan actually works.

As long as you keep trying you cannot fail. When you finally achieve your full measure of success remember that your success wasn’t due to the final best plan, it wasn’t even due to all the better plans along the way. Your success was ultimately due to your decision to try in the first place.

So….what are you going to try today?

Your Next Shot

I’ve been blessed many times with the opportunity to visit The Pinehurst Resort. It is truly the golf Mecca of the United States and home of the world famous Pinehurst No. 2 golf course.

If you’re even a little into the game of golf you need to add a visit to Pinehurst to your bucket list and get yourself there very soon. The golf is world class, the food is to die for and the people, well the people who serve you at Pinehurst are the kind of people you would be friends with back home. There are few places like Pinehurst anywhere in the world.

But without question the centerpiece of Pinehurst is the golf course known as No. 2. It was designed in 1907 by the legendary Donald Ross.

Donald Ross designed No. 2 to mirror life, if you hit it straight you had a chance to succeed. If you hit in the the rough well things could literally be rough. You could drive the ball 250 yards but it would count for very little if you couldn’t navigate a 6 inch putt on the delicate and challenging greens. As in life, Mr. Ross wanted little things to matter on No. 2. But no matter what you did with your previous shot always there would be a chance at a better one next time, a recovery shot. Redemption! 

Whether in golf or life we always hope for something better the next time, even the most successful people sometimes need another chance to succeed. 

I’ve hit a lot of bad shots on No. 2, but I’ve hit some good ones too. Either way it’s the chance for another shot, a better shot next time which keeps me coming back for more. It’s really the next shot that truly matters. If it’s a better shot your back in the game, if it’s a worse shot you’re in trouble but still, you have a chance for a better shot next time. 

Life is like that except shots are called choices. We can get away with a bad one now and then but too many bad choices in a row can send us somewhere we don’t want to be. But the only way to recover from one bad choice or even a series of bad choices is to make another, better choice. Continual success does not come from effort, it comes from continual effort. Even if you’ve made ten good choices in a row your success only continues if you continue to make good choices. 

It’s the old “what have you done for me lately” cliché. Our success is determined in large part by the choices we’ve made lately. The fact that we may have been a success in the past does not necessarily mean we are still a success today. For me anyway success in far more about the journey than it is about the destination. (Maybe that’s because I’ve yet to “arrive.” 😉)

Some people like to rest on their laurels but successful people would tell you that laurels quickly become a pretty uncomfortable place to rest. Laurels in fact are where success goes to die.

So go ahead, make a bad shot, make a bad choice and then make some more. Some will be better than others, the true secret to success is to never stop trying. Most successful people indeed failed along the way. They didn’t succeed because all their choices were good, they succeeded because when one choice was bad they took the chance at making another one.