Why Trying Your Best Is Not Good Enough


Back in kindergarten, when you couldn’t quite figure out how to complete that puzzle, your teacher would come over and say, “That’s okay, at least you tried your best.”

I hate to say it, but those days are over.

What am I talking about? Do I expect you to be perfect? Just because that file is missing a couple of numbers or there was a spelling error in your latest blog post, does that mean you’re a complete failure? You were trying your best! How is that not good enough?

It’s not good enough because there’s no such thing as “good enough.”

Something is either good or it’s not. You wouldn’t want a surgeon who was “good enough” to operate on you. Sure, your heart would work again, but not well enough to let you run, jog, or even walk at a brisk pace. Good enough, though, right?

See what I mean?

I’ve been reading a book by Joseph G. Lecak called Double Your Salary: How to Influence Compensation and Promotions. In the first chapter, he says that we have to strive for perfection. My first reaction to this advice was that it was ludicrous! Perfect is impossible. We’re all human and we all make mistakes.

I think my negative reaction to this stems partially from my upbringing and always being told that as long as I tried my best, I was okay. Another part is due to the fact that I have made my fair share of mistakes in life and the thought of never being able to make another is terrifying.

But, as I kept reading, I started to agree with him more and more. I realized that he wasn’t saying that we all had to be perfect all of the time (or even that employers expected us to be). We just had to approach everything with the mindset that we could be. Instead of trying our best, we should just assume that we would be our best.

When we say that we will “try our best,” we’re giving ourselves permission not to be. Instead of doing the work right the first time and to the standard that it should be at, we’re saying that we hope that happens, want that to happen, but can’t be 100% sure that that will happen.

As consumers, we expect perfection. We want our medicine to heal, our cars to transport us, and our phones to make calls, browse the internet, connect us with friends… whoa we expect a lot from our phones. And they should do all of these things. That’s what they promise us!

How would we feel if the label on the ibuprofen bottle promised to “try its best to make that headache go away?” I, for one, would not be pleased.

So, why wouldn’t you hold yourself to the same standard? Do you think employers are looking for employees who will try to do their best or will actually do their best?

We all need to approach everything from a can-do place. Why give yourself permission to be anything other than perfect?

Why send anything other than a perfect résumé? Why give anything other than a perfect interview? Why approach any assignment from a mindset other than that you’re going to turn it in on time and without any mistakes?

Now, I know that it’s impossible to live a life where absolutely no mistakes will be made… believe me, I know. Errors will occur and when that happens, you’re going to have to deal with them. BUT what I’m suggesting is that we shouldn’t let ourselves expect them to happen. We shouldn’t give ourselves permission to turn in work or perform at any other level than perfect.

By choosing to strive and believe that we can complete every project, every presentation, and every job to its utmost potential, we’ll eliminate a lot of the possibility that we won’t. Believe that you can and you will.

Homework time! Not sure how to approach this new way of thinking? Check out this post about my fears of volunteering and how I “faked it ’til I made it.” You can also challenge yourself to remove the word “try” from your vocabulary. For a week, two weeks, a month, don’t use the word “try” and instead make action statements. You will edit your résumé. You will conduct an informational interview. You are going to put together a strong portfolio.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this mindset. Should we stop trying to do our best and actually just do it? How can you start applying this mentality to your everyday life and job search?


3 Responses to “Why Trying Your Best Is Not Good Enough”

  1. Rohma Khalid

    I think that’s the reason why i have been cutting myself slag all the time. ‘I didn’t get highest but “I tried my best” ‘And yes that was the very reason that I never made a promise to myself of actually doing because I always in my mind had it set that ‘yes I will ”try”’ and that “try” was the culprit.
    You got that Right! (y)

    • Melissa Suzuno

      That’s really cool that you realized that about yourself. Let us know how things go now that you’ve changed your mentality!

  2. D'Ann Stelly

    You’ve got to keep trying your best UNTIL IT’S PERFECT. If you can’t make it perfect, you need to recognize that and get some assistance. That is what makes a professional a professional.


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