It’s Enough To Be Your Best

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

I saw a tee shirt not long ago that I almost bought for my grandson. It read, “Mom said I could be anything I wanted to be, so I became a smartass.” Hey, if the shoe fits. I probably had a little to do with that myself. You know, telling him there’s nothing he can’t do. His mom is to blame for the rest. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. She got it from her mom.

We tell our kids this kind of stuff any time they aim for the stars or come up short on their report card. The conversation is pretty much the same. “Yes, sweetheart, you can become the best baseball player ever to live. You just have to want it!” With the report cards it’s a little less lofty. “If Johnny can get an A in math, so can you. You’re just not trying hard enough!”

Well, time for a bite of reality. It’s called “limitations” … the outer boundaries of our natural abilities. If your kid brings home a C on their report card, it means they’re pretty much like everybody else – no better, and no worse. It also means you don’t have to spring for a new bicycle or whatever else you may have promised for better grades. Learn when to be satisfied.

The fact is teachers don’t award grades based on effort. If they did, some of the slowest kids in class would bring home straight As, and some of the geniuses would be scraping the barrel. Grades, like many things in life, are based on our ability to master whatever it is we’re trying to do. And, while effort certainly plays a part, there’s a little more to it than that.

My youngest daughter is one of the smartest people I know. If she decided to study medicine, there’s little doubt she could learn to be a brain surgeon. But if you’ve ever seen how she shakes just buttering a piece of toast, you’d run the other way. I’m not sure what causes that, but it’s a physical limitation that would prevent her from ever holding a knife in the operating room.

I always wanted to be a pitcher on my baseball team, and the home run star of the league, too. But I spent my time in right field – you know, where the dandelions grow. Nobody ever hits the ball to right field unless they were aiming for the dugout and missed. The rules said the coach had to let me play, so he put me where I could do the least amount of damage.

When it came to batting, let’s just say I was a better outfielder. I think I got one base hit all year, and that was only because the other team was too dazed at the initial shock that Dave actually hit the ball. But, here’s an important point to make. As I was grabbing my bat and helmet, I made a completely incredible announcement – “I’m getting a hit this time!”

Could I have become a stronger player? Absolutely. Could I have hit more home runs than Freddie Chadwick? Never in a million years. My physical stature just wasn’t sufficient to hit the ball that far. Yes, I could have built more muscle and hit the ball further. But some of that is just in the way we’re built. The same goes for grades. You do the best you can do.

Can you accomplish anything in life? Well, within certain limitations, yes. If you’re confined to a wheelchair, odds are you won’t be winning the Boston Marathon any time soon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compete, and that you can’t turn in an impressive performance. It’s just a matter of priorities – what’s most important to you?

We don’t have to reach the very top to succeed. Do you need to be the richest person in the world, or just make enough money to enjoy the life you want? Sure, both are technically “possible,” but one is a lot more feasible. And within the bounds of “feasible” lies that all-important realm of “believable.”

It’s hard to find the energy to chase a goal we don’t believe we can achieve. Whether that’s better grades, a perfect golf score, a home run, or achieving financial success, it all has to start with belief. And belief only extends to the limit of our natural abilities.

Can you become a better student? Yes. Will you ever get straight As? Maybe. Can you hit the ball a little better, or improve your financial status? Absolutely. To what limits? Well, there’s only one way to find out. When you reach a goal, set a new one. Then just keep doing that until you can’t go any further. You may not reach the very top, but you can get closer. And sometimes, that’s good enough.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

It’s Hard To Improve What You Won’t Take Time to Learn

Good morning! I hope your day (and your week) is off to a great start.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a training session with somebody who had just begun a new venture. It’s always fun to see the excitement in somebody’s eyes as they think of the many things they hope to accomplish and, maybe for the first time in their life, actually feel like they can do some of those things. Doubt is replaced by confidence and imagination takes place of fear.

I’ve been there, sitting in that seat, and thinking of all the things I wanted to accomplish, with somebody offering their time to show me how to do it. And I have to be honest. The whole time, my brain was moving faster than my ears, filtering out the parts I didn’t want to hear. Just tell me the fun stuff. I like fun. All that other stuff is for the people who really need it. I’m different.

If that sounds familiar, welcome to the club. It’s a lot more common than we’d like to think. The first day on a new job, we’re listening and learning, and just as quickly as we’re learning, we’re trying to think of a more efficient way to get the job done better and faster. Okay, maybe not the first day. But it usually doesn’t take long.

And the truth is, there may be a better way. Managers love it when an employee can come up with a new suggestion that saves money and gets things done more efficiently. But sometimes you have to stumble through a lot of messes to come up with something that’s truly better. And unless you’ve been around long enough to get away with that, creativity may not be your best bet.

Sometimes, it’s best to just go with the tried and true formula. There’s a reason they call it that – it’s because it’s been tried a bunch of times, and it works. And sometimes, with all the other ways that something can be done, the first approach was truly the best. I’m sure a lot of people have tried to improve on the basic concept of the wheel, but so far, a perfectly round shape seems to work best.

Many of you are too young to remember when Coca Cola tried to boost sales by “improving” their flagship product. The company spent $40 million in research and taste-tests to find a formula that would put an end to the long-running “cola war” with Pepsi and others. The result was deemed one of the largest marketing blunders in history. Three months later, with $300 million in unwanted product on hand, the company went back to their original formula.

The Ford Motor Company learned a similar lesson years earlier when they attempted to take the automotive market by storm with a car that was so far ahead of its time, nobody wanted it. There were other factors in the Edsel’s failure, but it’s a classic example of how a drastic deviation from the tried and true can sometimes result in complete failure. All told, it cost the company the equivalent of $4.8 billion in today’s dollars.

When we start something new, we want it to be our own. That’s the creative spirit that lies within each of us. It’s the creative spirit that allows us to imagine something beyond our current reality, to dream of something better. And it’s that same creative spirit that often gets in the way when we begin chasing that dream, because we don’t want to do it somebody else’s way – even if it works.

It’s natural to want to come up with great ideas on our own. Every technological advance in history was the result of somebody thinking, “there has to be a better way.” But before you can invent a better way, you must first understand and apply the tried and true method to find out what works and what doesn’t. Or, as Mom always used to say, you have to crawl before you can walk.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, you can usually find somebody who’s willing to show you how to do it. And their way may not be the best way – but until you learn what works, it’s hard to improve upon it. Sometimes, we have to be satisfied with steady progress instead of a jump to the end. We have to take time to learn and apply the principles that have been proven over time.

There’s nothing wrong with creativity. The trick is knowing when to apply that creativity, and when to be quiet and listen to somebody who’s been where you are and at least knows how to get you headed in the right direction. Emulate those who have proven what works before you try to improve upon it. Your journey to success may not be immediate, but once you’re on the right path, you can always go a little faster.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved