“Anything worth doing is worth doing well’ (or “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”) is a saying that dates back to at least the 1700s. The saying means that “rush jobs” are not the best jobs; if time is to be invested in something, then someone’s best efforts should be given to do that thing well. A modern variant is: “If you going to do it, then do it right.”
The movie Wall Street (1987) had a memorable line spoken by its main financier character, Gordon Gekko: “What’s worth doing is worth doing for money.” In other words, if you’re going to spend time doing something, then you should make money doing it. The saying didn’t originate with the movie.
“What’s worth doing is worth doing for money” was recorded as “Donohue’s Law” in 1978, after someone named Joseph Donohue. “Anything worth while is worth doing for money” is cited from 1958, and “Anything worth doing is worth doing for money” is cited from 1959.
If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well
Job is sometimes used instead of thing.
Care and application are necessary. ‥In truth, whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
[1746 Chesterfield Letter 9 Oct. (1932) III. 783]
The elegant female, drooping her ringlets over her water-colours,‥was maintaining the prime truth of woman, the universal mother: that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
[1910 G. K. Chesterton What’s Wrong with World iv. xiv.]
‘If a thing’s worth doing at all,’ said the professor‥‘it’s worth doing well.’
[1915 H. G. Wells Bealby v.]
‘Things worth doing are worth doing well,’ was the motto at my first school.
[1980 Church Times 22 Feb. 12]
She’d never cared for dripdry, ‥she’d rather see everything starched and crisply ironed. ‘If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ was Gracie’s motto.
[1992 A. Lambert Rather English Marriage (1993) iii. 62]
Children should learn the value of completing tasks properly. The old saying, ‘A job worth doing is worth doing well,’ holds true.
[2002 Washington Times 11 Mar. B5]
31 July 1958, Oxnard (CA) Press-Courier, pg. 12, col. 1 ad:
ANYTHING WORTH WHILE IS WORTH DOING FOR MONEY.
28 February 1959, Massillon (OH) Evening Indepedent, pg. 1, col. 1 ad:
ANYTHING WORTH DOING is worth doing for money. Anything worth moving, is worth moving right.
KASERMAN MOVING & STORAGE CO.—Ad.
Automatic Data-Processing Systems:
Principles and procedures
By Robert Henry Gregory and Richard L. Van Horn
San Francisco, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co.
This approach to selecting applications follows the slogan, “Anything worth while is worth doing — for money.”
11 April 1961, Ames (IA) Daily Tribune, “Corridor Chatter,” pg. 8, col. 1:
If a thing is really worth doing, it’s worth doing for money. Don’t applaud! just throw me cash.
Air Force Magazine
By Air Force Association, United States. Army. Air Corps
v. 45 - 1962
A writer of our acquaintance, who has achieved a measure of material success in his craft, has a sign posted above his desk which reads:
ANYTHING WORTH DOING IS WORTH DOING FOR MONEY.
16 July 1969, Pasadena (CA) Star-News, ‘Another Ruth Goes to Bat” by Maury Powell, pg. B6, col. 1:
Anything worth doing, a profound observer once noted, is worth doing for money.
The military and society : the proceedings of the Fifth Military History Symposium, United States Air Force Academy, 5-6 October 1972
By David MacIsaac; United States Air Force Academy. Dept. of History.; United States Air Force Academy. Association of Graduates.
Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF
Years ago I made what I laughingly call a living as a free lance writer, and I still have a sign on the wall in my den that says anything worth doing is worth doing for money.
Google News Archives
18 October 1978, The Bulletin (Bend, Deschutes County, OR), ‘Slippery money laws made known” by Jane Bryant Quinn, pg. 7, col. 5:
These and other pearls have been collected by Paul Dickson, whose book, ‘The Official Rules,” will be published Nov. 27 by Delacorte Press.
Donohue’s Law says that what’s worth doing is worth doing for money.
Personnel, the management of human resources
By Stephen P. Robbins
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
What’s worth doing is worth doing for money. — Joseph Donohue
No Bull Selling
By Hank Trisler
New York, NY: F. Fell Publishers
After all, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing for money.
Arbitration and Collective Bargaining:
Conflict resolution in labor relations
By Paul Prasow and Edward Peters
Durban : Lexicon
Wags have phrased this point of view thus: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing for money.”
Internet Movie Database
Memorable quotes for
Wall Street (1987)
Gordon Gekko: What’s worth doing is worth doing for money.