A couple years ago, I wrote this piece – Start by Doing it Badly. Inspired by a Jordan Peterson video by the same title, it is a powerful concept that can be used to free you from the shackles of perfectionism and serve as a vital tactic in the war against Resistance.
In the pursuit of our goals, it can often be hard to get ourselves to do the things we need to do. We doubt that we are any good, and paralysed by the fear of failure, we do nothing. However, It is our willingness to look foolish, to suck at first, to begin by doing it badly that will make our eventual success more plausible.
Once we have gotten started though, we need to sustain that effort. With every iteration, we learn, we improve, we get better. We create the rough drafts to work with, we make mistakes and learn more about the thing we are doing. Over time we should definitely get better automatically from repetition, but how much better we get is also within our control.
To really improve, to truly operate at higher levels, we have to embrace the craftsman’s mentality. We must seek to be excellent, to strive at perfection.
It is like playing a video game. At first you suck, dying to enemies, not sure what button to press or how to wrangle the many mechanics. But the more you play, the more you get into flow. You know what to expect, you know when to attack, when to draw back. You learn what abilities and resources to invest in. You learn to play the game.
At this point, you could just coast on your abilities and get right through to the end of the game, barely eking out your victory. You could take what you know and survive, doing good enough work. Doing okay, being average.
Or you could strive for more. You could seek domination. You could know this game inside out that the hardest bosses eventually seem trivial. When you enter the arena, it is they who hear the boss music, quaking in their boots.
So it is with life. You start by doing it badly. But whatever you choose to do, eventually, strive for perfection, strive for excellence. Strike to give at least more truly remarkable performance, in your career, in your calling, in your art.
And how do we do that?
- By dedicating yourself to the craft
- By studying and imitating the best
- By studying the game, the craft
- By deliberately practising and seeking out feedback
- By being obsessive
This improvement is not something that happens automatically. But something that must be fought for and hard won. It is through dedication and hard work and practice that we can approach perfection.
But understand that perfection might not be possible, but it is the trying that matters, giving every drop of what we have for the cause. By running the good race, fighting the good fight.
Start by doing it badly, end by doing it perfectly.