Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

If You Want Something Done Well, Do It Yourself

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 17, 2010

Not a week goes by that a person won’t hear the phrase “if you want something done well, do it yourself!”  After all, the phrase has been around for centuries!

Economist Mary Jane Latsis (1927 – 1997) and economic analyst Martha Henissart (1929) wrote a number of books under the pen name, Emma Lathen (a combination of the two authors’ names.  One of many books they wrote was their 1975 book “By Hook Or By Crook.”  In that book, they wrote:

Do you know how I got it done in the end? I went down to Annapolis myself. I always say, if you want a thing done well, do it yourself!

The phrase was also found in one of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s poems entitled “The Courtship of Miles Standish” which he published in 1858:

That’s what I always say; if you want a thing to be well done, You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others.

Not surprising, the phrase itself was an adage T. Draxe published in 1616:

If a man will haue his business well done, he must doe it himselfe.

But back in 1541, Henry Bullinger wrote and published “The Christian State of Matrimony.”  The book proved to be extremely popular with continental as well as English reforming Protestants.  Even after eight editions in the 100 years after its first publication, Bullinger‘s words continued to ring true:

If thou wilt prospere, then loke to euery thynge thyne owne self.

It would appear that through the centuries, people have learned at some point in their lives that “if they want something done well, do it yourself.”

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