Thursday, March 05, 2009

Worth doing badly
Years ago, a Friend at my meeting ministered on the subject of a job worth doing. Unlike my grandmother who repeated "if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well" just about a thousand times in the course of my childhood, the ending was different. Trevor said: "if a job's worth doing it is worth doing badly".

Thinking about it was very liberating for me. I am by no means a perfectionist of the sort that can't bear to do a job sloppily, but I would often avoid doing a job at all if I knew I wasn't able to make a good job of it. Failing by not doing it at all seemed better than failing by doing the job badly.

His ministry allowed me to look at what he had said and know the truth in it: jobs that are worth doing, that need doing, are better done badly than not at all. It's true on all sorts of levels.

I was reminded of Trevor's ministry because today I had a bit of a shock. I was building in Second Life while listening to the incomparable Anton Lesser in the Falco mystery the Silvery Pigs. I would listen to Anton Lesser reading nonsense, I adore his voice, and I love his portrayal of Falco particularly. The episode I listened to was the final episode. As usual I loved the sound of Anton Lesser, but I realised that I liked the woman's voice too. In the drama she is a bit of an individual, a strong character who falls in love with Anton Lesser's character, and I thought she was very well cast, and had a lovely voice, but I had never bothered to find out her name.

Seen above, her name was Fritha Goodey, and this being the age of the internet I was able to look her up immediately, found a wikipedia entry and learned to my immense shock that she had stabbed herself to death in 2004. People always say nice things about someone after they have died, particularly when they die in tragic circumstances, but it seems that people were saying nice things about this actress when she was alive. She had a loving and supportive family, friends and colleagues who liked and respected her. It seems she was beautiful, kind, talented.

And yet she killed herself. Something about her life was so unbearable that killing herself seemed preferable. People said in the news reports about her death that she had been anorexic, and was such a perfectionist that she put herself through agonies wondering if she would let productions down... and even success and bigger and better parts hadn't made that go away. Often it seems it isn't the student destined to get none of their GCSEs who kill themselves through fear of failure - they don't expect to pass and it comes to no one as a surprise when they don't. It is the ones who are predicted to do very well that often can't cope with the pressure to perform, the pressure to live up to this perfect view that the world has of them.

I fear that I am a one tune guitar, but I think schools and our system of education can take the blame for much of that attitude, where exams are emphasised as though lives will be ruined on the stroke of a pen. It doesn't work like that in the real world... people fail exams, they move on and retake, or do something else entirely.

Everyone is different, everyone responds to pressure to perform differently. That's why I believe a one-size-fits-all education system that doesn't respond to the needs of the indiviual children with it is wrong wrong WRONG. And why I am going to be telling my grandchildren, that a job worth doing is worth doing badly.

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