My parents told me, from kindergarten through college as well as all of my years in competitive sports, “Just do your best,” and with that, I went on into the world a “fairly well-adjusted, happy kid.” I never quite excelled in school. I never quite excelled in sports. Sure, I was a good student and student-athlete, but was “good” really my best?
While I love my parents, I have to say it was a mistake to tell me (an incredibly insecure, sensitive, creative child) to “Just do your best.”
Think about it. What are the benchmarks? A child’s reference point to “best” is how it was done before him – either through older siblings, peers, relatives, etc. What other ME was there to compare to to make sure this was my best? And starting the whole phrase with “Just” really sets one up for high expectations. It’s kind of like saying,
“We don’t expect too much from you, son, so do what you can and we’ll feign excitement when you come in with a C average or 4th in the big race.” *insert sympathetic pat on the head*
I know my parents meant well. I mean hell, I’m now a parent and I can’t believe how STUPID I sound and feel some days. So when they said “Just do your best,” it was from the heart and they meant something like: “Give all you have to give and you will achieve greatness.” (i hope)
So, next time you offer encouragement to a child, a friend, a coworker or even as you look into the mirror, instead of saying “Just do your best,” try saying some of these:
Leadership (like parenting) is difficult. If you can’t inspire or set a vision of excellence that everyone can gather around, you’d better be good at feigning excitement when your company comes in with a C average or 4th in the big race.
Keep Cooking – everything that makes you unique!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef