Several years ago my sister gave our family a children's book--Euphonia and the Flood. I honestly don't remember a lot about the book except the motto that's repeated over and over again, "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well." I remember not really liking the book way back then and it's interesting to me how often I think about that motto with a bit of annoyance. I guess it's safe to say that I don't agree.
Certainly it's great to do something well. I like that idea and I like to encourage my children to try their best. But does that mean that if you can't do something well, for one reason or another, that you should just not try? I'm not sure I like that message. I think that perfectionism is paralyzing. I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately as I've been teaching knitting at the local women's shelter. There are some ladies who are such perfectionists that they can't make any progress. If they make a mistake in their knitting they'll rip the whole thing out or have me fix every little mistake and they just aren't getting enough practice in because of their hang ups. It's so much easier to teach someone who's fine with some mistakes, who can see past a few flaws to the excitement of the finished product. Getting something done, even if it means that it's not a perfect product, is satisfying and fun and it gets you somewhere.
So what does that have to do with birdhouses? I was reminded of this idea when Nate was working with the girls to make birdhouses for the Ogden Nature Center birdhouse competition and exhibit this past week. He made comments to me like, "it certainly looks like a six year old made it, even though I helped quite a bit." And, "My woodworking friends would have done such a better job at making a bird house." The fact is, his friends didn't--he did. With all their imperfections, Nate and the girls made birdhouses. This is what they got out of not doing something well--but just sitting down and doing something:
A couple afternoons of time spent working together
Some instruction on working with power tools
Interest and care for small creatures
A chance to enter a competition--even if they don't win anything
A chance to look at and admire other entries in the competition
A cool looking birdhouse that they made prominently displayed in our yard (after the competition)
Not a bad list of benefits for doing something even if it's not great. I recently told someone that I'm totally fine with mediocrity. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't put forth any effort into what you do. But if I don't have the pressure of doing everything exactly right I can certainly do a lot more things and get great satisfaction in the things I accomplish.