Monday, March 14, 2016

"I did my best."

I hear the phrase, "I did my best," often during the day.  What does that mean?  What does it really mean for one to do their best, and if a person really does their best, why do they feel the need to exclaim it like the bookend of a performance that they know was sub-par?

I complain to myself, my wife, and other facilitators that an internal drive and sense of urgency seems to be lacking from many learners.  Where is the desire to exceed expectation and to do a quality job on any and every project?  My wife and I come from families where we (and our siblings) did well in school and did not give up for anything.  I don't remember my mother or father ever having to give us a pep talk or cheer us to the completion of a task.  Completion was a given and extra effort was expected.  We did not work just for the satisfaction of exceeding expectations, but because we would not be internally satisfied without exceeding expectations.

When a person says, "I did my best," what they are really saying is, "I want you to think that I tried when, in reality, it was not important enough for me to try any harder than I did."  In an age of patting everyone on the back for participating, we are raising a generation that "did their best."

It's a lie.  Doing one's best is not about going through the motions and checking a box.  As a former athlete, I used to say and hear phrases like:

"Leave it all on the field,"
"Go balls to the walls,"
"You can rest when you're dead,"
"Get it done. No excuses," and
"Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

While I do not condone child abuse by pushing anyone beyond their physical and mental threshold, I believe that we are setting the bar altogether too low.  We accept crap as long as it is wrapped in the pretty paper of "I did my best." No! You didn't do your best.  You cut corners and you took the path of least resistance.  I am all for working smarter and not harder, but refusing to stretch yourself beyond your own pre-set limitations is unacceptable.

Not every learner, child, or young adult in this generation are lumped into this pit of self-deception. Neither is every adult an internally motivated person.  I am simply noticing that many in the current generation fail to perform at even half of their potential, and the adults are letting them use childish and selfish reasons to justify their laziness and self-deception.

What can be done, you ask? We need to stop accepting their pitiful excuses, including "I did my best," and "That's all I know how to do."

Help me hold the youth of this generation to a higher and nobler standard.  Help me call out the lies and self-deception that they tout when the task is too difficult to be Googled or made into a video game.

It is not uncommon for me to believe that I was born in the wrong generation.  I see other time periods and think that their work ethic and drive are more in tune to mine.  However, when I honestly evaluate the situation, many in this generation have a drive and a work ethic with which I feel more comfortable. We need to teach the youth to appreciate and value integrity and hard work even when the task seems insurmountable.

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