“Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Right”

How many times have you heard this? Where did you learn it? Your parents? Grandparents? Friends?

Do you follow this mantra? Has it helped or hindered your progress?

Recently I’ve been reading Joel Salatin’s Folks, This Ain’t Normal and in it he talks about this old saying; “Anything worth doing is worth doing right”. I can’t tell you how many times I have spouted this out to myself and other people in the past few months. For some reason it became my new mantra and it has done nothing but held me back. Let me explain.

Joel Salatin makes the example; when a toddler pulls herself up for the first time and stands up, what do the parents say? “What a big girl!” and “Look how strong you are!”. Three seconds later she falls to the ground, giggling. No one says “God dammit Suzy, why do you even try if you aren’t going to do it right?” or “If you aren’t going to stand more than three seconds why don’t you just stay on the ground and not walk at all”. No, no one says that. Those examples might be a little harsh, but that’s exactly how we treat adults who try something new without being an expert on the subject.

For example, Justin and I bought this house and three acres, put in a large garden and a fruit orchard, even started carving out some of the tall grass to reclaim it. You know what happened? We had thousands of weeds, we lost a ton of crops to neglect (from being busy), two fruit trees died and lost all our strawberry plants. All of this could have been avoided, of course, if we had spent 10 years planning this down to a tee, spent every waking moment in the garden and mapped all the shade on our property to the inch. Or we could have just not done it all. Those seem like two pretty extreme ways to deal with the situation.

I’m not saying you should go into anything half-assed, but I’m starting to learn that if I wait for the perfect opportunity to do something, I’m never going to do it. We’ve been talking about getting chickens for months. I told Justin, time and again, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right” and I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to have $600 appear out of nowhere to build the perfect chicken coop and get the perfect chickens. You know what the likelihood of that happening is? Excuse my language, but goddamn zero. Those are the chances of me finding 6 crisp $100 bills on the side of the road and actually spending them on the chicken coop.

So let me amend the saying. “Anything worth doing is worth attempting.” I have 100’s of ideas a day (well, it seems like it) and you know how many I’ve followed in the past 6 months? Maybe 10, and 9 of those were about the sunflower hut that did not function the way I expected it to in the least. It was a total flop.

How I’m Learning to Change

In my life, up until this point, this saying has been drilled into my head by all of society and it has done nothing but hold me back. I’ve not tried anything really new for years or was afraid to try without top of the line equipment my whole life. I’m changing that, right here and now.

1. I’m going to attempt new things. I’ve already started this actually, the quails were my first leap. I needed a few dollars here and a few dollars there, Justin pitched in and on a whim, we got quails. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but I just got sick of waiting and finally jumped in. The eggs are on their way, the cage materials are in the garage and I, ME, of all people, built an incubator from scratch that holds perfectly at 101F. I’ve been telling people my whole life I can’t build anything, I guess I proved me wrong.

2. Even if I can’t do it perfectly, I’m going to do it. This is already happening as well. I’m taking steps at the moment, Dad will be here tonight, to start our chicken coop. Now I’m not going to be able to have a dozen laying hens and room for meat chickens, but I will very easily be able to have 4 hens. I have four sheets of half-rotted plywood that we’re going to cut up, paint and put together over a cheap 1×2 skeleton. Presto, chicken coop. It’s not the ritz, it’s not a designers dream, but it’s something to start. It will keep the chickens warm, safe, and out of the weather, which is what’s important. Chickens will poop on a $5000 coop just as much as they will a $50 coop, so why bother doing it perfectly? Perfect is overrated, which brings me to my next point.

3. We can’t have Perfection. Justin and I make less than $32,000 a year before taxes. We make diddly-effing-squat for money. We have enough to pay for heating, electricity, the mortgage, internet and groceries. That’s about it. Chances are we can afford a couple bags of feed a month as well for the critters. Do you think we’re gonna build some designer’s paradise homestead on that salary? Hell no! There is no way! We live in a modular for god sake’s! It’s never gonna happen, but we can make it functional. We can produce all our own food (and save money), we can plant an orchard, we can keep chickens, we can preserve and craft, we can do the best we can. We can’t be perfect and we can’t build a Mother Earth News cover homestead, but we can meet our goals of self-sufficiency. Isn’t that what really matters? Who cares if we live in a glorified trailer with chickens attached to it?

The point is we have to try to achieve our goals even if it’s not a perfect manifestation. We can’t be help back by fear of not being perfect.

4. Starting Small. This is the other big one I had to get over, especially with the chickens and the garden. Yes I want 20 chickens so I can sell their eggs. Yes I want 30 fruit trees. Yes I want 10,000sqft of garden. The simple fact of the matter is that I have zero real life experience with those things. If I get those 20 chickens, chances are I will make a mistake and 15 of them will die before I figure out what I did wrong. That kind of loss could devastate us. If I get 30 fruit trees all at once, what do I do when they all die off suddenly? How do I even attempt to weed 10,000sqft of garden if I’ve never had more than 200sqft? The reality is that we have to start small and work our way up.

I canned my but off this year to make 75 half-pints of jam, 20 quarts of tomatoes, and 40 pints of miscellaneous other things. That’s not hardly anything compared to someone who has been canning for years. I barely did anything to them! There is no way I can attempt to can over 1000 quarts next year, even though I want to. I’m still going to try, but I have to realize that I don’t know how to handle that kind of workload, so I’m going to have to get into it gradually.

5. Learning to Relax. I’ll be the first to admit, my napping has increased these past few months, but barely. I’m constantly stressed and always worried that I’m doing everything wrong. Even at this very moment, as I write this, I’m having an internal freak-out because of bills coming and farmer’s market ending. I and many other people, need to learn to relax a bit. I need to remember that stress and constant worry can not only make me unhealthy, but in some people’s cases, they are deadly. We all need to learn to relax a bit more. I need to learn to accept that I can’t be perfect and I never will be, but I still need to try. I need to relax, but continue to be motivated. This is going to be my toughest challenge.

So, if I have convinced you, spread the word. Next time you hear someone say this, try to steer them towards attempting instead of stagnation, waiting for the perfect opportunity. I think if we all tried things instead of waiting for the perfect moment, we could accomplish a lot more. Perfect moments only exist in the movies, you have to make your own out here.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. Actually I’ve heard some parents say something like that (“God dammit Suzy, why do you even try if you aren’t going to do it right?”) to their children. But back to the main point. Lot’s of failures here over the years from multiple causes like too much work for one person (I work off the farm during the summer and sometimes that takes up time during important garden developments), bad weather, poor preparation, and plant pests you just can’t anticipate or stop once they get going.

    I built up my orchard to almost 50 trees in a 10 year period. But I have bought many more because diseases and weather killed some off. Then a few years back under a cover of 4 feet of snow voles gnawed and killed about half of them. So I decided to start over and planted 5 new trees that spring. Next year five more and I’ll try grafting some good tasting wild apples, too.

    Weeding is the worst part of gardening and there is no easy solution. Mulch works for a little but I mulch thickly and still have luxurious weeds to pull.

    Make sure your chicken coop is good because chicken shit will rot one made of weak wood faster than one made from good heavy wood. A watertight roof is essential, too.

    Anyway, that’s some of my experience.

    1. thank you for sharing! I’m glad I’m not the only one who makes mistakes!

      1. I think I’m finally figuring out how to live best here.

  2. Jonnie says:

    I have heard that statement, but I was grown when I heard it. What I heard when I was growing up was, “You’ll never know, if you don’t try.” I was taught to ask questions, and to, ” look it up”, if I hit a snag in whatever I was trying to learn to do. You learn by doing, asking questions, when you need to, and watching how someone else, that has experience, does it. You also learn by researching, and reading about it. Always start small, until you know from experience, how to do it, the start growing, a little at a time, but stop expanding, when you think you’ve found your limits, of how much you can handle, and still have a chance to enjoy what you’ve accomplished. Leave yourself time to relax, and enjoy it all, or you’ll burn out. Remember, if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.

    1. I like those sayings a lot more! I’m all for attempting new things even if you don’t know every detail! It’s all about learning as you go and gaining the experience!

      1. Jonnie says:

        Yes, it is. There is joy in trying something new, and finally getting it right. The learning process can be enjoyable, as well, with the right attitude. The mistakes can be frustrating, but I have found, telling yourself that you will laugh about it later, helps. In fact try to make jokes about the mishaps, as soon as you can, to help boost your willingness to try it again.

      2. I agree. I feel the same way about the incubator I built. It was incredibly frustrating but I’m so flipping proud of the ugly little thing. And it works really well, that’s what matters! I’m glad I gave it a shot!

      3. Jonnie says:

        It works. That is the most important thing. You can make the next one pretty.😁

  3. Excellent post! A perfect world would be a boring one. I make mistakes all the time. You’re an inspiration, proof that you can go for what you want in life. That is what makes life more interesting!

    1. Haha, thank you! I’m glad I can help people out and inspire them to at least try!

  4. I teach my kids, “if you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried hard enough.”

  5. dreamfarming says:

    I like the saying “half assed is better than no assed”. It’s crude but it works. Sometimes I only have the time or money to start a job. Starting it is a good start. I try to tell my kids that half a clean bedroom is better than a completely wrecked bedroom.

  6. I think failure is part of life…you lean to appreciate the things that worked even more. I have failed flat on my face before! Bought two calves and a heifer…didn’t know the calves could sneak under fencing! (Never had any before) Spent many long days fixing the fencing because the previous owners didn’t do it right. But now I know about cows!!! Had to chase them 3 separate time across 2 miles..on foot! But I learned something..
    Proper fencing and what that is for cows.
    And I met all my new neighbors!

    1. Haha, this might happen if we get goats….

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