Why You Can’t Afford To Do Great Work

Do you think that it’s better to do a good job than a bad job?

If you do, that’s a problem.

It’s a problem because it’s not true.

You win at school if get an A in every course. That is how the system works. You are supposed to put a lot of time into everything. Things you love and things you hate.

We are taught to “Make an effort” and “Do your best”. All the freaking time.

That’s really bad advice.

“Do your worst!” – Now that is what I call advice.

You should ask yourself “What is the worst I can do? (And still be OK)”.

The reason behind this is that most things does not matter.

There are probably a few things in your life that you care about. And a lot of things you don’t care about.

I’m convinced that the best way to live a good life is to do more of the things you like and less of the things you dislike. (Did I just blow your mind?)

I advocate erasing things that we don’t like from our lives. However, that is not always possible.

Here is a simple rule for the things you dislike in your calendar:

If you can’t delete it, make sure to suck at it. 

Still not convinced that you should start being awful?

No problem, I got three more arguments for you right here.


Why You Must Do Bad Work

First, let me define “Bad Work”.

Bad Work is equal to putting in the least amount of time in order to accomplish a task.

Here we go, 3 reasons why you have to teach yourself to do Bad Work.

  1. Get more time for things you want to do

There are probably things you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to start a business on the side, write a book or spend more time with your cats.

Learn the art of bad work. Bad work gives you time.

In fact, you will find yourself wondering what to do with all the time.

2) Slap your inner perfectionist (And learn to ship)

It’s always hard to share things. Perfection is paralyzing.

I want to edit these blog posts at least 10 more times before publishing.

I want to add five more features to my website before I launch it.

Whenever I start thinking I should spend a bit more time to perfect something I think about what Reid Hoffman famously said about launching a business:

“If you are not ashamed about your Beta you launch to late”

The reason is that 90% of everything is crap. But you never know which part, as sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon famously said.

Other people will tell you what is crap and what works.

You can’t know if you’re busy making something “perfect”.

Then suddenly 10 years have passed before you realize you work on crap.

3) Practice being uncomfortable

While writing this article I had to do a presentation. It was mandatory but completely uninteresting. I knew I would pass if I did A presentation.

Still, I found myself doing a bit too much research, working with the slides and practicing.

I’m a big believer in practicing what you preach. So I stopped my research. In fact I made the slides uglier.

Now this is one ugly slide (Why I did a presentation on pea soup in Spanish to finish my first semester in a Master in Computer Science is another story).

Then I did not practice what I was going to say. I just showed up.

It saved me at least two hours.

It’s really uncomfortable to give a presentation without being prepared. It makes me anxious, which means that it’s good for me. 

Why is it hard to do bad work?

A misconception about bad work is that it’s easier to do than good work.

This is not true either.

People always do what’s easiest, we take the path of least resistance. And a lot of people do “great work” – ALL THE TIME.

Here is why.

A) We are taught to

In average we spend about 10 years in school. This is 10 years of being told to do your best all the time.

10 years is a long time. It’s hard to unlearn something you’ve been told every week for 10 years.

B) Group Pressure

Everyone will notice that you did not put in as much work as you could have done.

Other people will give better presentations, hand in better papers and say smarter things at the meeting.

You might not get that extra pat on the shoulder from the teacher. Someone else will get a smile and a nod from the boss.

And all along, you know it could have been you – AND IT HURTS.

C) It’s A Skill

It’s not easy to do bad work.

We must practice. Bad work has two basic components:

  1. Defining the task
  2. 80/20 analysis

Instead of jumping in, invest some time into understanding the task really well. You should know EXACTLY what is expected.

Second, you perform a so called 80/20 analysis.

That is, answer the question “What 20% will yield 80% of the results?”.

For example, I know I would pass the presentation if it was 10 minutes and I made some power point slides. That’s it.

But what about my personal brand?

There is a ton of articles on how to build a “personal brand.”

Most of these articles does not recommend giving an awful presentation about pea soup in front of 30 people.

Giving a bad presentation probably has a short term negative impact on your “personal brand” (although, how do you even measure that?).

BUT, you will be able to spend more time on what you love.

Then you will be happy and successful. Then you can tell people who have a problem with your “personal brand” to fu@$ off.

Do This Now

  1. Look at your calendar
  2. Write down one thing you don’t want to do but have to do
  3. Figure out the minimum input possible.
  4. Do Bad Work
  5. Move on and spend a few extra hours with someone you like. Or watch Westworld. Or make some pea soup from scratch, whatever you want.


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