The title is a quote from my late father, who would use it when I was a kid to get us moving. It was only as an adult, recalling this command, that I got to wondering about it. It made no sense. Why would anybody want to do something wrong?
Well, my father was in good company. Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
So I ask again, why would anybody want to do something wrong?
If you think about some of the decisions you’ve struggled with, the ones with multiple alternatives, you’ll realize that which is “the right thing” and which is “the wrong thing” is not obvious. Otherwise you wouldn’t be struggling with the decision. If you do nothing, you miss out on the chance of grabbing “the right thing.” Usually, any one of your alternatives is better than what you’re doing now, or you wouldn’t be considering it. If you throw “do nothing” in as an alternative, all of your choices will look better. If you then choose “do nothing,” at least it’s an active and thoughtful choice and not just cowardice.
This common belief that there is always a right choice and a wrong choice has a stifling effect on human and organizational innovation, as I talked about in a previous post. It’s the reason people often do nothing. We’re all afraid of making the “wrong choice.”
Even Yogi Berra, in one of his famously nonsensical quotes, chimed in on this question. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” This is actually the answer to the quandary. The important thing is to move forward. Action feeds on action. Maintain your momentum for action and for taking charge of this and all decisions you’ll make in the future.
I’d love to hear about your experience. Have you ever moved ahead and done something even knowing it might be the wrong thing? Have you ever done nothing because you were afraid of doing something wrong?