You’ve probably been told you should always do your best. When you were a kid your parents told you to do your best in school, and when you got your first job it was the same.
When I was younger I never questioned this idea – I took at face value. Always do your best at whatever task you take on.
But just what is your best, and should you really be doing it?
Society Tells You To Always Do Your Best
Parents, teachers, and other wise adults never hesitated to tell me to do it, whatever it was that was my best. It didn’t matter if I failed; the only thing that mattered was that I did my best.
Even the Bible tells you to do your best, or rather, with all your might and with all your heart:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… – Ecclesiastes 9:10
Adding a bit of pressure:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24
But How Good Is Your Best?
Just what is your best? How good can you be? What is good enough? And can you ever do better?
Nobody ever asked me these questions, much less tried to give me the answers. So I went through my life, doing my “best” at various jobs, with a few exceptions of employee laziness during college. At a construction job I was working, some older guys commented on what an amazing work ethic I had, and I was proud of that.
I never even stopped to think about these questions until I was under such pressure at work that I was nearly losing my mind (slight exaggeration). You can click the link to read about that experience, so I won’t rehash it.
Basically, to the bosses, nothing was ever good enough – no amount of effort I gave or number of hours I worked was ever enough, even though I was consistently doing a fantastic job.
So what can we make of that experience? Was I doing my best? Could I have done more?
I was already sacrificing nearly everything in my life to put it in the work.
Should I have done better? Should I have sacrificed the rest – my wife, daughter, friends, church, sleep, health, sanity?
What Is Your Best?
No matter how much effort you give something, you can always give more.
Unless you’re an Olympic athlete who has devoted every waking AND sleeping second of your life to your sport, there is always more time, energy, attention that you can take away from something else in your life. Even then, you can always be better, push that needle just a little further – shave 1/100 of a second off your lap time.
So, are you doing your best?
Should You Be Doing Your Best?
Maybe you can tell I’ve become a little cynical about this platitude.
The 10X Rule
I just finished rereading The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. If you ever feel the need to light a fire under your ass, this is the book to do it. This book gets me so pumped up in just a few minutes that I feel ready to take on the world.
The book’s premise is a fairly popular idea with entrepreneurs these days, which is to 10X whatever you’re doing. Grant takes it one step further than everybody else though, and says to 10X every part of your life all at the same time. Start taking massive action now on everything that you do.
I really recommend that you get the book, especially the audio version because he narrates it himself, and he speaks with such fire and passion that it gives me unbelievable motivation.
Other books, like The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, which I recently discussed (and loved), acknowledge that you can only put so much energy and effort into one area of your life before another area starts suffering. Gary says that eventually you’ll need to counterbalance (not balance) and pay attention to the neglected areas of your life before you lose them.
It’s a bit of a mystery to me, how Grant can suggest that you can 10X everything all at the same time.
To me, and according to Gary, it all comes down to your priorities. You just can’t possibly give everything in life your equal attention and expect any of them to do well – you’ll spread yourself too thin to make an impact on anything.
To be fair, this is not what Grant is suggesting in his book. He does say you have to write down your priorities and goals, and focus on them, but whereas other people will admit that your personal life might have to suffer for a while if you are trying to 10X your business, Grant disagrees – with EXTREME FEROCITY!
My Scarcity Mindset
It could just be that I have not completely replaced my scarcity mindset with abundance.
If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of scarcity and abundance mindsets, basically, most people have a mindset of scarcity. They have the idea that they have to scrimp and save and conserve because there’s there’s a fixed amount of success and money out there, and that they better not take any risk because if they lose it, it’s gone for good.
People with a mindset of abundance know that there is no limit to wealth, happiness or success, and that someone else’s success does not limit the amount of success that he or she can have. There is more than enough for all of us if we would only take the necessary actions.
I have to give it to my buddy Richard, who pointed out what I missed from the 10X Rule:
In the book, Grant mentions briefly how he creates time by simply being more efficient, taking action while others are wasting time thinking about taking action, and by hiring people to multiply the action that he can take.
This is the one insight I have from this book as to how you can possibly 10X more than one thing at a time, and I wish he would’ve elaborated more on this concept, instead of just repeating that you have to take massive action.
The Last Time I Gave Something My All
The last time I can say that I really gave something every ounce that I had, was rock climbing at the Drop Ship Lifestyle retreat in Thailand last October.
I had never been rock climbing before, but Thailand has some really awesome and beautiful rocks, and one afternoon we had a choice of playing volleyball on the beach or climbing, so of course I chose climbing.
After one climb up the shortest route I was hooked. It was exhilarating, and I was hungry for more.
There were about six routes, or lines up different sections of rock face, each with different challenges and heights. I just had to do them all, and it took most of the afternoon.
If you fall it’s no big deal because there’s a belayer – someone at the bottom holding your rope to catch you.
The Ultimate Challenge
Near the end of the day, the climbing guides opened up a new route that went much higher than the others and was way more challenging. The few of us who were left at this point wanted, no – needed to make it to the top of this new route.
One by one, we tried to make it up, but there was a really difficult section where you have to hang on with your fingertips and toes, and jump to grab the next little handhold before scrambling up the rest of the route. Most didn’t make it to the top, but slowly a few were strong and nimble enough to conquer this challenge.
I was the second to last person to try. I had just spent a lot of energy on the other climbs, but I wanted to get to the top of this route with every fiber of my body.
I made it up past the first hard spot, where you have to actually jump backwards to grab a ledge that is jutting out from the rock face above you, and then scramble up to the really difficult spot.
The Impossible Grab
At this point I was already exhausted, but I wanted so badly to make it to the top. It took tremendous energy just to hold on with my fingertips while I tried to figure out how to reach the little ledge above me.
With every ounce of strength I had I leapt to grab the finger hold, missed, and fell a couple feet, swinging out from the rock face before my belayer caught the rope. Crap!
After catching my breath, I swung side to side, gaining momentum to get myself back to where I was. Now I was really tired, but I still had the drive to make it to the top. Holding on again I gathered enough strength to try again.
I jumped again, missed and scraped my knees against the rock. Now, even more exhausted, I made my way back to the spot.
I thought about quitting. I didn’t have any strength left, and my body was shaking just trying to hold on to the rock.
But I knew that if I quit now I would not be satisfied and I will would always wonder if I could have made it.
I tried two more times after that, using every ounce of energy and strength in my body, but each time I missed and scrapped against the rock, each attempt worse than the last. At that point I had completely run out of gas, and I knew I had given it everything I had.
There was no way I was going to make it, so I accepted failure. I came down and collapsed on the ground, breathless, exhausted.
Yes, I was disappointed that I didn’t make it to the top, but I was satisfied with the knowledge that I gave it everything I possibly could. In fact, I was thrilled with the experience and proud of my performance; mind and body feeling great.
Proving To Myself
This was one of the very few times in my life I can remember, that I did my absolute best on a limited physical challenge like this. I don’t remember ever pushing myself so hard.
I wasn’t just trying to climb a rock.
Here, at a retreat where I was hoping to learn to build a brighter future for my family, I was proving to myself that no matter what challenge I face, I was going to give it everything I had until I conquered it.
Unlike this limited challenge, in real life you can always try again another day. And in that mission I will do my best.
What about you? When was a time that you gave something your all? Let me know in the comments.