A wise man once told me “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” Though I cannot recall the context of the conversation, I have never forgotten those words. They serve as a lasting reminder to me not to trade good for excellent. Sometimes we can get so caught up in pursuing excellence that we become too fearful of mediocrity to even make an attempt. Mediocrity isn’t all bad, and from mediocrity sometimes excellence can emerge when we least expect it.
For example, I frequently encounter students who are struggling with the overload that comes with higher education. Many struggle to the point of dropping out because they aren’t able to meet their studies with the degree of success to which they have become accustomed in other areas of life.
To folks like these, I say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” So you get a C instead of an A. GPA isn’t everything – in fact, a graduate degree with a low GPA beats an undergraduate degree with any GPA every time. Just do your best and make progress. A little progress is better than no progress. Whether it is in education or any other pursuit, it seems far better to make an attempt than to never engage for fear of mediocrity or even failure. Even failure isn’t always bad – ask Thomas Edison.
The apostle Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), and I would bet he was probably a very good one. But I would also wager he wasn’t nearly as good as he could have been. Why? Because he had other priorities and he spent his time largely on those priorities (e.g., proclaiming the gospel and teaching). Tent making was important to Paul, but it wasn’t worth all of his time. He was able to assess how to spend his time, and limit his tent making efforts to the point that they complemented his other ministry. I would suppose that he was as good a tent maker as he needed to be.
Obviously, we should always prefer excellence, but sometimes not good enough is actually good enough.