Byrd's Words

"This is not meant to offend or convert anyone.
Take what you want and ignore the rest."
— Byrd



by byrd tetzlaff

Some time ago, someone gave me a gift which has driven me crazy and may have saved my sanity. I have wrestled with it for over twenty years. Tonight I will pass it on to you.

But first, allow me to tell you a story.

There was once a young man who knew that his father loved him very much. But the father, being an inarticulate man, never showed his affection.

After a glorious ceremony where the son graduated at the top of his class, the father came over to him. After a moment, the father awkwardly put his arm around his son's shoulders. He stood stiffly for a moment and then said, "Son, I'm Proud of you." Then he removed his arm and walked off without looking back.

Stunned, the son stared after his father, then shook his head and joined his friends in celebrating.

Sadly, soon after, the father died of a sudden heart attack.

Now that moment, that awkward, uncomfortable moment, became a diamond in the son's memory.

True, the father had not shown his affection in a smooth, polished manner, but he had tried. And that meant everything to the son.

End of story.

A few years ago, I was becoming more and more frustrated with a present I was making for my mother. Getting very angry, I finally tossed it across the room, saying, "This stupid thing! I'll never get it right! I might as well not even try!"

"Now, now," came a voice: "You know that anything really worth doing is worth doing poorly."

I looked up to see a friend standing there. "You mean doing well," I corrected him.

"No", he said gently but firmly, "I meant what I said. Anything Worth Doing, is Worth Doing Poorly"

I thought he was crazy. All my life it had been drilled into me that anything worth doing is worth doing well.

But then I thought about it. My mother really wouldn't care if the gift wasn't perfect; she would just be happy that I thought of her. But because I couldn't do it perfectly, I was considering not doing it at all. Because I was thinking of myself and my own insecurities & imperfections, I almost took the coward's way out and not acted at all. Fortunately, my friend's words shocked me into action and Mother did get a gift from me, even if it wasn't perfect.

But it almost didn't happen. I almost gave up; then Mother would have missed out, and I would have missed out, just because I was caught up in a silly, impossible standard of trying to be perfect.

In the years that have followed, I have often shared those words of wisdom with folks. Everyone, every last person I have said those words to, has rejected them -- just as I did. But think about it: Anything worth doing is worth doing well turns into It's not worth doing unless you can do it well -- so don't even try.

Perfectionism strikes again. And it masquerades as virtue, when it is really just cowardice.

We get caught up in trying to do everything just right, trying to get it perfect. That sounds good but it's really just a sneaky way of letting us beat up on ourselves.

We stop singing in public (and maybe even in private), because we might hit the wrong note.

We don't try that new game, because we might not be good at it.

We don't tell people how much they mean to us, because it might make us feel silly.

We hurt ourselves by this expectation of perfection. We block out experiences that might be fun or instructive. We rob ourselves of the sheer joy of belting out a song, even if we can't sing a note. And we hurt others by not letting them know how very important they are in our lives.

So what if it's not perfect?

So what if we look silly?

To the son who received his father's love, that moment was worth all the awkwardness it caused his father.

To my mother, who got a less-than-perfect gift from her daughter, it meant the world.

We don't need to be perfect. We only need to grow. We can't grow unless we try things.

So this is my gift to you:
Remember, anything really worth doing, is Worth Doing Poorly.
Try something, do it poorly -- and ENJOY.

So Be It.

Byrd Tetzlaff
© February 2001 All Rights Reserved

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