Anything Worth Doing IS WORTH DOING BADLY

In my latest blog series I’ve been asking people I follow on Twitter or their blogs to guest write a blog for mine on certain given subjects. I asked Bruce DeBoer of and my favorite to write on the subject of “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly” and I let him have free reign on how to fill in the subject matter. Bruce was kind enough to say yes and to write on the subject below:

Humility is the Quiet Skill of Creativity
“When weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.” – Martha Graham –

Reading words were once hieroglyphics. With talking, early on I was incomprehensible. With walking, ask a stroke victim how hard it is to relearn those first steps. Apparently we’re not afraid to be terrible when desire is high or fear is low. Conceivably, groundwork might be easier without speech so we couldn’t talk ourselves out of trying.

Enjoy your badness because once you’re accomplished there will be times where you think you were once better than you are. Backsliding is much less fun than improvement; there is fulfillment in working your way up from the mail room of creative talent.

If being an expert at anything means you abandoned your need for approval then it has real value. Unfortunately, revered talent has much more to lose than those rewarded for trying. There is something to be said for that grammar school soccer ribbon given for hard work – win or lose. All we have to do is try hard to win – you’ve already won. Life is that way – most success is just being there; so be there. Finding humility is the quiet skill of creativity. The justly successful are high achievers in creative humility. It’s why the most talented genuinely rebuff compliments, it keeps expectations low, both internal and external. “No really, I suck – don’t expect me to do this again anytime soon.” – is what the artist is thinking.

“The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.” – W. Somerset Maugham

Accordingly, I believe sustained creative failure to be a refusal to accept humility, and an error isn’t failure unless you give up the fight. Authentic creatives have a passion for doing; they can’t not-do, and the results are secondary to the act, but no less important than their original idea. Sooner or later, humility provides freedom to fail.

If something is worth the effort, the rightly talented risks embarrassment. Only the arrogant and conceited perform solely what they look good doing. Humility shrinks our need for approval.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to wait to begin painting until I’m an expert. How absurd. “If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing badly.” – Gustav Holst –

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2 Responses to “Anything Worth Doing IS WORTH DOING BADLY”

  1. Jim Alexander Says:

    Gary, You’ve done it again. You’ve gone and exposed me to another wellspring of interesting thought. Thanks for that.

    Bruce is, of course, dead on in his central thesis here. What is unsaid, though, is that the truly creative, the experts, the most talented are not alone in chasing creative failure and reveling in their badness. Large numbers of the extremely untalented, THE manifest unworthies, subject us daily (hell, by the minute on Twitter) to their badness without exhibiting even a whiff of the “quiet skill” Bruce mentions. This is the cost to the rest of us, from mediocre to brilliant, for the right to strive as Bruce recommends.

    Just as I believe my best work is still ahead of me (hope I die with that thought still rattling around in my cranium) so, I believe it is for anyone no matter their badness. I just wish they’s take a day off every once in a while:)

  2. Bruce DeBoer Says:

    @jim – so true. Social media has its cost and sometimes it’s high.

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