I’m sure you’ve heard the common saying, what is worth doing is worth doing well. I’ve used the statement on multiple occasions to encourage people to put in their best in whatever they do, and I always use it to motivate myself to get stuff done. But my thinking and interpretation of this saying were recently challenged when a friend interpreted it as meaning, if you don’t know how to do certain things well enough, you should not attempt to start it. Although I disagree with his interpretation, our discussion, however, got me thinking. What if there are other people who hold the same view as my friend? What if there are people being held back from working on their plans for the fear that they may not be able to do a good enough job?
For the people with a dissenting opinion of the saying, I am changing the sentence to – What is worth doing is worth doing, is worth starting, worth learning, worth improving on, so that eventually, one can do it so well and become an expert in it. If we go by the false premise that we shouldn’t attempt things if we are unable to do them well, then it would eliminate the possibility of learning any new concept, practicing to improve, and ultimately getting better with time.
If we let the notion of not knowing how to do certain things well enough prevent us from ever trying out those things, then it will be tough to attain the expert status, plain and simple. Every athlete knows and understands this simple concept. They start, often as complete novices, but they practice day and night, they dedicate their time to learn and improve their skills, and in the end, they become professional athletes.
In the career world, if we apply the same interpretation that if you are not able to do certain things well enough, you shouldn’t get yourself involved will mean there are no more opportunities for career progression and growth. There will be no entry-level positions, and there will be nothing like on-the-job training for fresh graduates. Everyone is expected to be an expert from day one on the job. We all know that this is not realistic.
Most businesses involve trial and error, and companies ultimately succeed because the owners are willing and ready to make mistakes and learn to become better as they move the business forward.
Almost all worthwhile endeavors require learning and willingness to improve before the expert status could be reached. Without learning, there will be no opportunity to become an expert. Learning is what puts us on the path of improvement; it helps us to know how to do what we do well enough before we can have a chance of becoming experts in the field.
There are, however, three fundamental steps that every learner must follow before they can become experts. These are:
1. Understand your skills: We all have different skillsets. Some people are very good at grasping and interpreting abstract concepts, while others learn best through experiments and physical objects. Some enjoy the challenges of making mental calculations, while others thrive by communicating their thoughts. Some express their creativity by drawing, and others may choose to paint, compose music, write books, and so on. It is the responsibility of every individual to discover their skills, use those skills to identify what they are good at, and focus on those areas where their skills can easily be applied. Matching your skills where they are most applicable will make it easier to improve and help you achieve mastery.
2. Practice makes perfect: In his book, “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell postulated the 10,000 hours rule, which states that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery. While the number of hours may vary depending on the task or field under consideration, the concept applies to most things. Any worthwhile endeavor will require time, good practice, and dedication to hone our skills and achieve mastery. Before attaining that, an individual must be willing to put in the necessary time and practice with complete focus before ascending to the expert status.
3. Showcase your expertise: At this stage, you have achieved mastery; you can now do whatever you have been learning well enough and with ease. The practice has almost become second nature to you; you are comfortable and confident in your ability to get things done. It is now time for the world to know you and what you are capable of; it is time to showcase your expertise so that more people will see and appreciate your work.
The next time you are about to quit an endeavor before trying, remember that what is worth doing is worth starting, worth learning, worth improving so that eventually, you can do it so well and become an expert in it. Don’t just give up without trying.