Growing up I played about every sport imaginable. I played football, basketball, baseball. I swam and ran track. When I wasn’t on the field of play I was still competing. Working to become class president or top of my class. As a young boy most of what I worked on was in the pursuit of winning. Luckily, early on I got a lesson on what winning really is.
I’ll never forget one summer afternoon riding home with my dad after a Little League baseball game in utter disgust. For all of our efforts my team had ended up on the losing side of the day. I grabbed the obligatory soda that someone’s mother had been assigned to bring and stomped in frustration as I followed my dad to his car.
He unlocked the doors and asked me to take the front seat. As soon as I sat down I removed my mitt, threw it on the ground and exclaimed, “We’re losers. We’re a bunch of losers.”
My dad let me sit and simmer a little in my tantrum until finally he asked me if I had done my best. I told him that I had, but that it didn’t seem to matter much. He followed up by asking me if I felt my team had done the same. I again responded and told him that I felt like myself my team had given their all, but that the scoreboard just didn’t reflect it.
He proceeded to teach me a lesson that influenced the rest of my life. He explained to me that as long as I did my very best I could never lose. He taught me the best is best and that in my life if I gave my all I would never have anything to be ashamed about regardless of whether scoreboard agreed.
I worked hard to apply this lesson in my young life, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I really learned its value. In the middle of my 15th year I became a quadriplegic. In a split second my life changed. After that day there are many areas of my life where my best would never measure up on a scoreboard.
I was no longer as strong or as fast as my peers. I could no longer physically match up to those around me. I had to find a new way to measure my efforts. I had to come to terms with the fact that my best was the best no matter how others “scored” that best.
So it is with each of us. We spend so much time concentrating on how our work stacks up against those around us we forget to measure whether our work is our best. We compare our houses, our kids, our lives with others, wondering if we are number one. No matter what task we’ll choose to tackle our goal right from the start must be to give our very best and then be comfortable with the results. It’s easy to say but quite another thing to do. It requires self-assuredness and the positive sense of self. It requires us to judge ourselves against our own abilities and not against the abilities of others.
In the end all we are required to do is maximize the abilities we’ve been given. Part of mastering this idea is to not only to be willing to accept our own best efforts, but to be willing to accept the best efforts of those we interact with also. If we are ever to learn to be content with our best we must also be willing to do the same with the best that others can give. This requires us to give up our desire to judge ourselves or others against any standard other then that question my father posed to me that day in the car–”Did you do your best?”
No matter what goal or dream we might pursue, when we give our best we can never lose.