Something about doing something

Something about doing something

My work requires me to collaborate with colleagues located in different parts of the world. We do this over email and online conversations. Currently, I’m working on a document that draws on all the information we’ve been able to gather quickly on the likely impact that Hurricane Matthew would make to the market environment in Haiti.

It requires collecting information. Today, my colleague and I were agonizing over the information that we hadn’t been able to find and the questions we hadn’t been able to answer. We wondered if our analysis, as well as our writing and our layout, would be good enough for publishing.  During our online chat, a phrase suddenly popped into my head, “don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.”

This phrase remained on my mind for the rest of the day.  I thought about how often I’m hindered and hampered and paralyzed by fear that whatever I start might not be good enough. I thought about how this pervades pretty much every element of my life.

Sometimes it’s a fear failure that stops us from starting something, sometimes it a fear of not finishing that ‘something.’ In my case, a little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing.  I’ve learned enough to realize very few things are black and white. There are no perfect solutions. The world is complex, and many, many well-meaning efforts have unforeseen, negative consequences.  Take Haiti for instance. One of the lessons learned from the response to the earthquake in 2010 was that food distributions by well-meaning aid agencies reduced the market for local products and damaged livelihoods of the producers and the sellers locally.

What over-analyzing does inside my head is make me focus so much on looking for all the angles to inform the right response to whatever issue I am faced with and then I often end up doing nothing at all.  Worse still, I get myself into a downward spiral of nit-picking and criticizing and poking holes in the efforts of others in case they haven’t considered everything.  When I am moved into action, I stifle the joy from my experience by beating myself up over the potential inadequacy of my performance.

But, you know what? Just maybe putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of action is a start. Just maybe trusting your instincts and acting honestly and kindly and with the best of intentions and the best information at the time is better than doing nothing at all. Just maybe we learn from doing (and not from doing nothing). And just maybe some slightly imperfect information on the markets in Haiti at this point, is better than no information at all.

Maybe when our best efforts are sincerely motivated, they are good enough.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17

Do something because it’s the right thing to do, do something for a friend, do something because it’s your job to do something. Stretch yourself outside your comfort zone. Do something knowing that, as humans, it’s pretty much guaranteed not to be perfect but most of the time doing something is better than doing nothing.


I don’t do this kind of writing.  I write a lot of things, reports, briefing notes, guidelines, and emails. I write an awful lot of emails.  What I don’t usually do is write from the heart in a public forum. Today I am.  Today I am doing something different. (Occasional Contributor)

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