Don’t Feel Bad About Your Bad Work

MistakeThe other day I was listening to a podcast episode with Seth Godin.

It might have been this one.

Anyway, Seth said something interesting, and I’m paraphrasing…

But he said that about 50% of the blog posts he writes are no good.

That might be surprising. It wasn’t surprising to me. I know the feeling. But for those that don’t write blog posts it might seem crazy.

But it’s true in many areas of life. I know that Dolly Parton has said that she’s written thousands of songs and about five of them are good. I would argue that many more are good, but I get her point.

The point to take home is that you shouldn’t be afraid to do bad work. You shouldn’t let the thought of something bad keep you from doing anything.

Perfectionism Is Procrastination

I don’t think it’s on purpose. But not doing something because you want it to be perfect or even great or good is a form of procrastination.

Imagine if Seth Godin didn’t blog because he didn’t want to put bad blog posts out in the public. He knows that half of what he writes will be bad, in his opinion. Yet he still publishing something everyday and he’s been doing it for more than a decade.

That’s a lot of “bad” work. But it’s also a lot of great work. And that’s the key.

You have to be willing to be bad if you want to do great things. It’s kind of like the quantity vs. quality debate. There is no way you’re going to get to quality unless you embrace quantity.

What Are Your Intentions?

I think intentions are important in life.

Have you ever received an unexpected gift from somebody you care about and the gift was just kind of…meh? You’re not all that excited about the gift, but you can tell that the person doing the giving is really happy about giving it to you.

Their intentions are to make you happy. To make you feel good. And you can tell. And it makes the situation wonderful for both of you. You can say thank you. Sure, you probably won’t enjoy the actual gift, but you’ll remember that moment and know that the person cares.

In that instance, the gift is bad. You didn’t ask for it. You won’t enjoy it. The gift itself is a failure. But the intent was positive and good and that’s what matters. And we know it’s what matters.

The cliche is, “It’s the thought that matters…”

We know it’s true. But we don’t always let it be true in other areas of our lives.

99.9% of parents love their children. 100% of parents make mistakes. Many mistakes. But the kids live. They turn out fine. Why? Kids can tell that their parents have good intentions.

Workers want to do good work. For many reasons they often make mistakes. But not everyone gets fired for every mistake they make.

Bosses make a lot of mistakes. They want to be good leaders.

The Secret

The secret is that if you aren’t afraid to do the occasional bad piece of work you will do some really good and even great work. In most cases, the good work you do will far outweigh the bad. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish and push yourself to do when you aren’t afraid to do bad work.

Seth Godin isn’t afraid to write a bad blog post. That’s allowed him to become one of the most influential and far-reaching bloggers on the Internet.

What work are you avoiding because you’re afraid of doing something bad?

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