Why Give Your Best?

We’ve all seen them; the people who start out races running like gang-busters, only to fade shortly after the race has begun. Later, you witness them walking, looking downtrodden and defeated. Race after race, though, there they are repeating the cycle. Truthfully, I’ve never had much patience for such folks. To me, life is simply too short to put in a half-baked effort. Besides, I don’t think my ego was ever strong enough to suffer the humiliation. The way I see it is, if we get only one go at this thing called life, we should be diving in head-first, committing to whatever it is we think we should be doing, and the consequences be damned.

I realize we currently live in a culture which teaches that everyone deserves a medal just for showing up, that completing the eighth grade is something to be celebrated, and we really shouldn’t keep score because we don’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt. But, in case you haven’t noticed, and contrary to popular opinion, we’re not all winners―no, not in everything. It took two years of perseverance and consistent hard training before I was able to accomplish on the roads, what I hadn’t been able to in high school. When I reached that point in running, though, I felt really good about it. In fact, I wanted more. Perhaps the best part about it was the satisfaction in knowing that I was the one responsible for my running accomplishments.

When something is just given to us, it tends to lose its meaning. When success is handed to us, we lose our motivation to strive for better results. Likewise, when everyone gets a T-shirt and a participation medal just for showing up, the depth of satisfaction is lessened and the happiness more fleeting. In a world where we celebrate the mediocre, the value of winning is diminished. We don’t respect it. Far worse, we come to expect it. It is the perfect setup for failure. Later, when something doesn’t work out quickly or easily, we think maybe it’s just not right for us; that it’s time to move on to the next thing. What we’re left with is a bunch of unhappy people wondering what’s wrong with them and bouncing from one thing to the next.

If you strive for your best, though, and if it takes time to attain it, others begin to take notice. And, when they see the effort being rewarded, they want what you have too. A few will even work a bit harder to get it. I subscribe to the idea that in putting forth our best efforts, we make the world a better place, simply by trying.