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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Doing Your Best Brings Out the Best in You

What do you call a doctor who graduated from medical school with a “C” average? 

The answer is “Doctor”.

This joke was told during a gathering at my house for which my kids were present.  I got defensive during the conversation because I place a great deal of emphasis on my children maintaining their grades.

Because I know their intellectual capabilities, I believe that earning a “C” in class means they aren’t trying as hard as they should.  Should their grades drop, I’ve found that once they get past the excuses of “it’s too hard” or “it’s my teacher’s fault”, they usually concede that they could be putting forth more effort. 

I’m not suggesting this is always the case.

Given my deficiencies in mathematics, if I attempted an accounting degree, I probably wouldn’t make the grade no matter how much effort I put into it.  To illustrate the point, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will forever think the fish is stupid or is not trying hard enough.

We all have limitations in some aspects. What I’m referring to is our natural tendency to take the path of least resistance – to simply get by.

The truth is, a “C” average will get you a degree.  I cannot dispute this notion because it’s factual.

What I can dispute is that effort plays a large part in our accomplishments and intellect alone does not make a person successful.  In fact, I know many people who bear intellectual superiority and cannot seem to accomplish much because they don’t follow thought with action.  Knowledge without application is meaningless.

I’ve always been of the opinion that those who care enough to do their best work are those who will experience great success in their lives.  I am referring to those who take pride in their work and understand that what they produce is an extension of who they are.  Whether it be a project for school or a presentation for work, I can tell a lot about you just by looking at your output.

There is a simple question that I ask myself in nearly every aspect of my life:  Is this your best?

Many times, I fall prey to mediocrity just to get something crossed off my task list.  But I find that when I challenge myself to bring my best, I meet the challenge. 

If we were to hold up the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves if we are doing our very best, and if we are honest, most of us would admit that we spend too much time just “getting by”; and the consequence of that is little reward for our effort.  And I’m not talking about an external reward (although that often results).  Sometimes just the satisfaction of knowing you put everything you had into something you did is enough to bask in accomplishment. 

Your best might be different from one day to another.  There are some days when you might struggle just to be present and put your face out into the world.  Sometimes just showing up is the best you can do.  And that’s okay.

But most of the time, you can be better and you know that you can.  As a police officer on the street, I knew when I was giving the best of myself.  On my best days, I knew I went above and beyond in investigating a case where I could have easily cut corners.  I knew when I went out of my way to assist a citizen instead of remaining comfortable with minimal effort. 

Any time I’ve just gone through the motions, it brought me no satisfaction.  When I work hard and give it my all, I feel accomplished and successful and those on the receiving end shared in the benefit.

When you do your best, you feel your best.  So do more of that.

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