The first single from Ben Folds Five's fourth album, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
came from two places. Ben Folds explained to FMQB
that the first source was his mother, who used to give him "birthday cards, with quotes which were attributed to Mother Theresa. For example, 'You may be honest in your life, that honesty may upset some people, be honest anyway. You might find yourself very successful. Things that are gonna upset other people and incite jealousy cause you problems, heartache…be successful anyway.' So that was back there in my psyche somewhere."
The second inspiration was a show Folds played at the Wiltern in Los Angeles when he said to the audience in reference to a ballad he was about to play, "This is not the kind of song I could stand on the piano and, you know, shake my ass to." Someone in the crowd screamed back, "Do it anyway!" Folds took his advice and made "up the bulk of what you hear in the song, at least musically, and some of the lyrics." When he got the board tape, he played it for friends, who loved it.
Folds then, "adapted it a little bit to fit the Mother Theresa thing." He said: "Also I was aspiring to a lot of honesty in this record with the intention of saying things that aren't comfortable and sort of stripping the ego, taking yourself out of being the dude in control. 'Do It Anyway' is kind of like that too. There're a lot of angles of loss of control in it, but that gives you control. It's beyond my ability to actually articulate it, philosophers have had a hard time with it too and they're smarter than I am."