We’re taught at an early age to do our best. That we should strive to be the best.
Being the best is a great accomplishment.
Best student. Best musician. Best cook. Best athlete. Best employee. Best boss. Best entrepreneur. Best leader. Best parent. Best friend.
There are at least three problems with best:
- Best is often a subjective comparison to the subset that’s around you. There’s a phrase, “big fish in a small pond,” that represents this well. You’re the best runner in your school. But, when it comes time to run against another school, your best isn’t good enough. You finish second in the race. Every time the subset gets larger, best gets redefined.
- Best is a fleeting moment in time. You might be the best today, but what about tomorrow? Next week? Next year?
- The value of best goes down quickly. Does it matter to your 48-year-old self that you were the best student (however that was measured) back in high school? Sure, it’s a proud accomplishment from your past, but does it really impact your life 30 years later?
I propose an alternative to being the best: being always better.
Consider the challenge and reward of always better:
- No matter what measuring stick you use, if the goal is to always be better than yesterday, the challenge is clear, and the improvement is measurable.
- There’s no place to hide when the goal is always better. No excuses for not improving, even just a little bit, from yesterday, last year, ten years ago.
- Always better pits you against your past self. The subset never changes. It’s you.
- If the definition of success is to always be better than before, you get to celebrate success every day that you improve.
What if you don’t improve today? That’s okay, we all have setbacks. Setbacks remind us not to take our improvements for granted. We get to see how great it is to come back to where we were, and then take another step toward our better self after that.
Seeking better every day yields a compounding effect that far surpasses the value of merely being best for one day.
Ask these questions of yourself:
- What am I doing to improve today?
- Am I focused on learning from my mistakes, or imagining a new way, and charting an improved course today?
- Do I realize that each day is an opportunity to be better than yesterday?
- Am I willing to challenge my own status quo, my comfort zone, today?
- Am I a better student, musician, cook, athlete, employee, boss, entrepreneur, leader, parent, friend, or whatever else you find most important, than I was yesterday? If not, why not?
Ironically, if you work on always being better, there’s a good chance you’ll become the best. But you won’t care, because the reward you seek comes from the never-ending quest to be always better.
God gave us all weaknesses. It’s a blessing to find out what they are so we get a chance to turn them into our strengths.