TITLE: How To Be Invincible
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: May 30, 2009 11:15 PM
Everyone is trying to accomplish something big,
Instead of trying to be the best, simply
do your best.
Trying to be the best can turn into an ego trap:
"I am better than you." In fact, the goal
of being the best is often driven by ego. If it
doesn't work out, this goal can become a source of
finding fault and tearing oneself down. "I am not
good enough." I should probably say "when", rather
than "if". When your goal is to be the best, there
always seems to be someone out there who does some
task better. The result is like a cruel joke: trying
to be the best may make you feel like you are never
In more prosaic sense, trying to be the best can
provide a convenient excuse for being mediocre.
When you realize that you'll never be as good as a
particular someone, it's easy to say, "Well, why
bother trying to be the best? I can spend my time
doing something else.." This is a big problem when
we decide to compare ourselves to the best of the
Who among us can measure up to those masters?
But it's also a problem when we compare ourselves
to that one person in the office who seems to get
and do everything right. Another cruel joke: trying
to be the best ultimately gives us an excuse not to
try to get better.
Doing your best is something that you can do any
time or any place. You can succeed, no matter who
else is involved. As time goes by, you are likely
going to get better, as you
develop your instincts.
This means that every time you do your best you'll
be in a different state, which adds a freshness to
every new task you take on. Even more, I think that
there is something about doing our best that causes
us to want to get better; we are energized by the
moment and realize that what we are doing now isn't
the best we could do.
I've never met Lebron James or Haile Gebreselassie,
but I've had the good fortune to meet and work with
Ward Cunningham. He is a very bright guy, but he
seems mostly to be a person who cares about other
people and who has a strong drive to do interesting
work -- and to get better. It's good to see that
the folks we consider the best are... human. I've
met enough runners, programmers, computer scientists,
and chessplayers who are a lot better than I, and
most of them are simply trying to do their best.
That's how they got to be so good.
Some of you may say this is a distinction without
a difference, but I have found that the subtle
change in mindset that occurs when I shift my
sights from trying to be the best to trying to do
my best can have a huge effect on my attitude and
my happiness. That is worth a lot. Again, though,
there's more. The change in mindset also affects
how I approach my work, and ultimately my
effectiveness. Perhaps that's the final lesson,
not a cruel joke at all: Doing your best is a
better path to being better -- and maybe even the
best -- than trying to the best.
(This entry is a riff on a passage from David
Allen's Ready for Anything, from which
I take the entry's title. Allen's approach to
getting things done really does sync well with agile
approaches to software development.)
not realizing that life is made up of little things.
Frank A. Clark