When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

There are times in everyone’s life when we cannot get to the end goal we desire despite how much effort, hope, or prayer we apply. One of the keys to a successful life, not only for you but for those underneath your influence or command, is to know when to step aside. This is a great reflection of true leadership but it is too often unrecognized.

Let’s face it. We all are endowed with specific gifts and abilities that no two have alike. That means that you will do certain things better than others and others will do certain things more effectively than you. This should not threaten a leader who is focused on the end goal. It’s the old cliché, “It’s amazing what you can get done when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

On the news, I recently heard someone in a position of great authority reply, in response to a question, “We are doing the best we can.” While we certainly encourage this type of language among children to encourage them to truly do their personal best and to develop self esteem, this verbiage has no place in a leader’s vocabulary.

When I attended the Air Force Academy in the mid-80s, first-year cadets were allowed only five basic responses when asked a question by an upperclassman. They were “Yes, sir/ma’am”; “No, sir/ma’am”; “No excuse, sir/ma’am”; “Sir/Ma’am, I do not know”; “Sir, Ma’am, I will find out”. That’s it! No more, no less. This first year of only answering with these responses stick with me to this day. It’s probably why, when someone answers me with an excuse, I feel a tremendous urge to tell them to drop and give me twenty! The service academies are first and foremost leadership academies. After all, you cannot defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic, if you are not a leader. And that is the primary job of a leader, to take care of those under their care.

Had I ever answered “I’m doing my best” as a cadet, I’m sure I would have been drummed out of the corps, and rightly so. Had I ever answered “I’m doing my best” to a Fortune 500 customer when they asked why their five-million-dollar piece of equipment wasn’t ready, I’m sure I would have been fired, and rightly so. If, when running a classified project, I replied “I’m doing my best” when asked why there were documented security violations, I’m sure I would have been escorted off base, and should have been.

If you have truly done your best and still cannot get the job done, do not let your ego sink all the good things you’ve accomplished. Realize it is time to move on to the next area requiring your particular set of talents and let the next team come in. That’s why we have succession plans and it’s why no one, no matter how smart or how powerful, is ever indispensible. Do not ever say, “I’m doing the best I can” because that is never an answer that serves any purpose other than making an excuse for yourself and alienating or infuriating the questioner.

10 Responses to “When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough”

  1. October 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I really like this. I have suffered some kind of medical issue that does not allow me to work with animals the way I always have so I have decidedto find another way to go. Maybe help I training service dogs somehow or something like that . I accepted (with great despair) that I must move on to my next project so to say and still do what I do best. Work with animals.
    Thank you Tracy for summing it up in words only you can.!;)))

    • 2 traceyjones
      October 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      You are so welcome Linda. There have been so many times in life when I didn’t get what I so desperately wanted, even trained and was most qualified for. And it was always life’s way of telling me my present course was done and there was something else greater in store for me. I could so see you training service dogs with your passion for animals. You said it best Linda, still do what you love to do while moving on to the next project!!

  2. October 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I am no longer doing my best I am looking for the new road life is offering.

    • 6 traceyjones
      October 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      I have been on at that cross roads many times and expect to many more times. I have no doubt that you will find exactly what you are looking for Linda. Maybe it’s to be a continuous sense of encouragement to people like me and my dogs:-)

      • October 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        Wow thanks I wish I could believe that I encouraged others. People tell me things like that but low self esteem and other issues ya know. That project is ongoing.

      • 8 traceyjones
        October 12, 2012 at 11:33 am

        It is my prayer that you know how much your constant comments, likes and supports have meant to me and the pack. I count you as our most important and passionate fan and friend to animals:-)

  3. October 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Great post, Tracey, and I’m sorry to be so late getting to it.

    You know, I always wondered why I didn’t like that line, “I’m doing the best I can.” Of course!– it’s just an excuse wearing some sound-good disguise! Can’t believe I missed it, sounds so obvious now…

    Loved the 5 basic responses allotted to first-year cadets. Man, what a different world it would be if those were everybody’s only allowed responses, all the time. Funny: just saw a local production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. (Oops, sorry, sounds like animal abuse!) Has that big rant against “mendacity,” i.e., lies, et. al. Simply put: nobody wants to give anybody an honest answer. Sigh.

    Yeah, nothing harder than packin’ it in when you realize you’re outta your depth. Takes a lotta wisdom, but mostly, it takes a lot of humility.

    Great stuff, as usual– cheers! : )

    • October 22, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Hi Mark, thank you as always for your analysis. Yep, takes as much wisdom to step down as it does to step up. Plus, humility which always seems to be so scarce:-) I will never forget those five basic responses. Taught us to avoid the disguise wearing excuses, as you so eloquently put it. Thanks for your continued comments and encouragement. Now to get caught up on your blogs! You know I’ve been busy hugging about 800 kids last week:-)

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Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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October 2012

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