Don’t shoot for second best

The saying “Second place is first place loser” always seems a bit harsh to me.

That’s not where I’m going with this at all.  That’s more or less a competitive standpoint, and I do think the saying has its place in the world.

But I’m not talking about competing here.

I’m talking about something else, and it’s become a sticking point for me as of late.  I see too many amazing people, blessed with incredible capabilities and talents, settling for something less than their best. And I have to say, I think they’re missing out on what life has to offer them.  If it’s not happening yet, they will eventually miss out.

There’s just no need to do that.  In any part of our lives.  Hear me out.

This is how I think we should look at everything we do.  We should strive to be the best at everything we tackle.  Not second best, not a “passing grade”, nothing less than the best.  You can apply this to absolutely everything.  When you go into work, how much sense does it make to aim for middle of the pack each day?  When you’re parenting, do you really want to look back one day and remember that you told yourself “I think I’ve done enough for/with my kids this week”?  When you’re tieing your skates in the locker room, are you thinking “Well, if the coach puts me on the ice once this game, that’ll be fine”?

I don’t care how you look at it – even if we’re trying something new, I think we can apply this approach.  Taking a course that’s introducing you to something new?  Trying pottery or creative writing or skydiving?  Strive to be the best at it.  Actually, now that I think about it, I’m guessing most people would be shooting for being the best at skydiving – anything less could ruin your whole day.  Learning a new instrument?  Don’t just try learning the basics – try to be the best at it.

Now, I think it’s obvious that being the very best at something isn’t always a possibility, and that’s where I believe something else comes into play.  I think you, the do-er, need to be the judge of what you think is the best.  You make the rules here, and it’s up to you to abide by them.  Let me give you an example:  let’s say you are applying this theory to being a dad.  What do you think it means to be the very best dad possible?  This is hugely subjective, but that’s what makes it fall into place for anyone.  Think about what it means to you to be the best dad possible.  Now answer this question:  are you going to aim for less than that?  I sincerely think that anyone would say “No, of course not!” here.

Now do the same for anything else you do in life.  Consider what you think is the best possible way to do something or to be something.  And then judge yourself.  The joy in trying to be the best that you think is possible is that you’re living up to your own expectations.  And that’s a good thing, if you think about it.

There are a couple of things I should also add here – things that I consider important parts of this theory.

First of all, you’re your own judge.  But don’t you dare start judging others who are doing the same thing, or trying to achieve the same things, as you.  Don’t apply your “Best in Show” expectations as a parent, or employee, or anything else – that’s completely unrealistic and unfair, because you and I don’t know what’s going on that person’s life.  We don’t know what their abilities are, what their history is, and what their needs and wants are driving them to do and what happens in their life day in and day out.  This theory is just for you.  This rule works in reverse too – the delicious part is that nobody else can judge you in this matter either.  They don’t know what goals you’ve set for yourself, and what you are trying to achieve and attain – I repeat, this theory is just for you.

Secondly, make your goals, or what you consider to be the best at something, achievable.  Make it something you can strive for, and something you know you can do.  Remember, it’s your goal, not a global one that applies to everyone else.

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail.  There is nothing wrong with failing, and I firmly believe you can interpret failures along the way as marks on the achieve-o-meter of your own life.  Notches on your belt, feathers in your cap.  Rarely do we succeed immediately.  In my opinion, failing along the way is OK.  Shooting for something less than being the best at what you do is not.

I just think it’s sad when people are deliberately aiming for anything lower than being the best, because it takes away from what you are.  What reason could you possibly give me and reasonably back it up, while feeling proud of your efforts and your commitment to something, that would support shooting for less than being the best?  More importantly, why would you want to give a reason to shoot for less than the best?

This isn’t some new-age-y, feel-good garbage for me – I’m serious and I think we’d see some pretty amazing results if everyone around us was doing this.  I’m going to be the first to say that I’d be a complete hypocrite if I told you I was doing this in every avenue of my life.  Actually, I’d be a liar.  But I am going to try it, and see where it leads.  I can’t imagine I’m going to come away a lesser man because of it.

How do you feel about this?  I’m always open to feedback, criticism and even people downright disagreeing with me.

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