Is that the best you can do?

There is an apocryphal story about Colin Powell that goes like this:

Someone who works for him provided him with a report and Colin Powell wrote in red ink at the top, “Is this the best you can do?” and sent it back to the employee. The employee was rattled a bit but thought to themselves, “OK maybe I need to make some improvements here” and went back to the grind stone and resubmitted the paper the next day. Again, he got the same feedback, “Is this the best you can do?”

Now the employee was upset. He went home for a week, worked on it all night several nights and poured blood, sweat and tears into his efforts. A third time he received the same feedback, “Is this the best you can do?”

In a rage the employee stormed into Colin Powell’s office with the paper in hand and screamed, “YES! YES! This is the best I can do!”

Colin Powell smiled calmly and said, “Good, this time I’ll read it.”

It’s a great story, and a friendly reminder that sometimes when we think we are trying hard, we are not necessarily putting forth our best effort. Trying to try is a better description. I can’t tell you how many times in my life, especially when confronted by failure, I’ve had to honestly ask myself, “is this really the best I can do?”.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes the real answer is, no it’s not my best. I have to admit I’m scared to try fully because I’m afraid my best won’t be good enough. But the feeling of a job well done, a task performed with wind of full effort almost always becomes it’s own reward. The next thing I know, success is sure to follow.

So ask yourself today is this really the best that you can do?