Never done anything by halves?

中国日报网 2017-07-18 11:03



Never done anything by halves?Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: Four wives, seven children, 350 albums….Willie Nelson has never done anything by halves.

My comments:

In other words, if Willie Nelson, the American folk music star, goes in for something, he goes all the way in, never half-heartedly.

Never half-heartedly should be the correct interpretation of “never done anything by halves”. To do something by halves, you see, is to literally get something halfway done and not to complete the job.

Children often do things by halves, or by half, for example.

For example, they eat half of the rice in their bowl before going out to kick balls. If they’re reading a book, they won’t be able to finish a few pages before being distracted by something else, something on television, for instance.

They begin to do a lot of things but don’t seem to be able to finish any. Their curiosity for new things is perhaps too great for staying on the same activity for long. And that is not entirely a fault, mind you. Many adults would love to retain that curiosity and dabble at different things, goofing around a bit more.

Anyways, metaphorically speaking, if someone does things by halves, then they do them half-heartedly. That is, without total devotion, dedication or commitment. In other words, they’re just not serious.

Not Willie Nelson, though. Nelson seems to do things in extremes. When Nelson marries a woman, he marries four of them – not all at the same time, of course, thank goodness. Children? He has not one but seven of them. Albums? 350!

What a life!

A lot of work, in other words, both at home and abroad, i.e. both domestically and career-wise.

All right, media examples of people either doing or not doing things by halves:

1. Caroline, a lawyer, used to work 16-hour days. ‘I’d get up at 6am and be in the office for 7am. I rarely left before 9pm, but would then do more work when I got home. This was my routine six, often seven, days a week - work, eat, sleep.

‘That was it. I made no time for anything else. Family, friends and relaxing were less important than climbing the corporate ladder.’

Despite her unfailing commitment to her job, Caroline became a victim of the recession and lost her job last year. Without work, she says she felt like a ‘drug addict going through cold turkey’.

‘The only thing that kept the fear and anxiety at bay was exercise. I began exercising like a demon. I’d run for up to two hours in the morning, then go to the gym, then for a swim or another run.’

It was only when she broke her ankle and was forced to rest that she had the time to reflect on what had happened.

‘For a while, I lost interest in almost everything. I struggled even to get out of bed,’ she says.

‘I realised I had an obsessive personality and had substituted one obsession for another. I also realised that I was a nervous, anxious wreck without these emotional crutches.’

When we think of obsessions, we tend to think of the negative aspects of extreme behaviour such as Caroline’s. It has even been said that every obsession is, at its core, a coping strategy for fending off anxiety.

However, some psychologists have argued that ‘productive obsessing’, or immersing yourself wholeheartedly in a project, can be not only an antidote to boredom and passivity, but also the recipe to a successful and meaningful life.

‘Obsessions with people, or irrational beliefs such as those held by obsessive compulsive sufferers, can be unhealthy or even dangerous,’ says Dr Eric Maisel, author of The Van Gogh Blues and leading creativity coach in the U.S., who has written about the topic in a recent edition of Psychology Today.

‘However, we firmly believe that doing things by half - merely dabbling in a hobby or professional endeavour - produces sad human beings.

‘It’s dangerous to feel as though you aren't making a meaningful contribution. We don’t want you to look at yourself in the mirror and see a person who might have done this, but didn’t; or who loves that but, for some reason, takes no active interest in it.

‘To lead a life that makes you proud, you need to get obsessed.’

Though there will be inevitable fatigue, frustration and dips in motivation, he believes people are more able to deal with those side-effects when they are immersed in something stimulating and important. In contrast, those without a passion can end up letting everyday challenges and difficulties get on top of them.

- Doing things by halves makes you sad, says a new study. So don’t be shy about being fiercely driven,, June 21, 2010.

2. Game of Thrones is not a show which does anything by halves.

It loves hard, kills like no other television show in history and now, as its end draws near, plans have emerged for not one spin-off but four.

Of course, in real terms, it is unlikely all four Game of Thrones spin-offs will see the light of day, but in order to ensure their most successful show ever has a long shelf life, HBO is taking no chances on developing the next phase.

HBO has commissioned four writers to develop projects connected to the series and set within the fictional world of Westeros, created by writer George R. R. Martin.

- HBO reveals it is developing four Game of Thrones spin-offs,, May 5 2017.

3. It was an unseasonably cool day in New York. At 1.50pm on 9 June, Hillary Clinton tweeted that Barack Obama was backing her for US president. Half an hour later, Donald Trump tweeted: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary.” At 2.27pm, Clinton replied: “Delete your account”. It was the most retweeted post of her campaign.

Just before 4pm, several figures passed through the shiny marble atrium of Trump Tower and took the elevator up to the office of Donald Trump Jr on the 25th floor, one below that of his father. Among them was Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer.

What passed between them remains a matter of uncertain recollections and international intrigue. The meeting was kept secret for more than a year. When news of it first emerged last Saturday, the world was provided with the first public evidence that Trump campaign officials met with Russians in an attempt to swing the election – the political crime of the century. A steady drip of damning details followed.

It also showed that a scandal frequently compared to Watergate goes right to the heart of the Trump family business. The president’s oldest son had handed investigators and journalists the much sought-after smoking gun. The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting and failed to declare it. The president’s daughter, Ivanka, faces continued scrutiny over her own role in the White House.

Like everything else, Trump does not do nepotism by halves. His three sons and two daughters have been seen as a political asset – even Clinton once said during an otherwise rancorous presidential debate: “I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.”

But recent events beg the question of whether they are becoming a liability. And, some ponder, is Trump certain to remain loyal to them, or would he throw his own son under the bus if it was politically expedient?

“The core organising principles of his life are winning and family,” said Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to president Bill Clinton. “It will be interesting to see what happens if those two principles come into competition.”

The Trump family have earned comparisons with the Corleone clan, from The Godfather novels and films. Donald Jr was dubbed Fredo Corleone several times over this week. But perhaps a more accurate template for a man steeped in the glitzy, avaricious 1980s are the Ewing and Colby clans in the glossy soaps Dallas and Dynasty.

- Trials of Donald Jr turn Russia scandal into another Trump family affair, The, July 16, 2017.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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