To date, this was the hardest essay or story to write. It required looking inwards and thinking about my past difficulties and countering that with my achievements - I’m not sure which were easier to recall. There were a plethora of quotes about being the best, so I am not alone.
Coming into this “course” at the end is sure a challenge! I look forward to when the group starts back at the beginning of the book which focuses more on reminiscing and not such intimate self examination!
I was about 40 years old when he said it. I remember sitting on the floor of my parents family room listening to the ebb and flow of conversation around me when my father pronounced that "It's not enough to do your best, you must be the best.".
I felt as if I'd been struck by lightening. Suddenly much of my life was made clear. I'll pause here to say that this was the first time I'd heard this pronouncement. I'd never been told by my parents that I wasn't good enough, and I would say that they'd never implied it in any way. Rather, I was born with this commandment deep in my DNA.
My brain was still reverberating with the revelation, when, later that night, I lay in bed and started re-examining my life with a different lens to see how this impossible idea might have impacted me. I thought about my daily struggle with being good enough and my occasional laments that I wasn't accomplished in anything.
Playing softball as a 10 year old is one of my earliest memories of failure - not only did I not have fun because of all the time on the bench, my inability to throw a ball and horrible hand/eye coordination left me feeling that "I" wasn't good enough.
Learning to play the piano left me with the same feelings of insufficiency. Hour upon hour of lessons and practice didn't turn me into a virtuoso, so I quit. I would never be the best so it seemed better not to try than to feel the gut choking agony of my deficiency.
Later in life I was better able to deal with the feelings of failure, but was not immune to them. I desperately wanted to learn how to ride a horse, however, the lessons caused endless frustration and feelings of inadequacy. Riding didn't come naturally to me - no matter how hard I tried, I felt stiff and out of balance. Gradually I replaced riding with other horse activities that I could excel in.
As I grew older, I subconsciously selected hobbies that I could at least become proficient in. Often a new hobby would be started under the beam of hypo-mania - brain chemicals would assure me that I'll be fantastic at my newly chosen activity. Eventually a normal mood state would be reached and I'd look at my efforts with a much more critical eye, and then drop the new hobby.
The same pressure that caused such unhappiness, also created a drive and determination to succeed. Everyday things would be tackled with a **determination to get things done. It didn't matter how many iterations it took - the design of our home wasn't complete until it was perfect. Building a breeding program, for both parrots and horses, was done with the idea of creating superb offspring. We worked hard to acquire champion breeding stock, and to build an efficient infrastructure to support our goals.
Training my own service dog required a dedication to excellence in order to get him to the level for public access. On his first day of work Spike walked perfectly at my side as we entered the office tower and made our way to the elevators. He negotiated getting onto and off of the elevator with aplomb. For the rest of his career he made me proud with his willingness to his duty.
As we strode down the halls towards my office a few people stopped us in the hallway. Spike sat beside me, looking up expectantly for me to tell him that he could 'say hello'. When we made it to my office I crouched down and gave him a hug. He had done well.
From the moment of that impossible proclamation, I have tried to remind myself that it is okay to just enjoy doing things, to do my best, and that it isn't a contest, but to be honest, it is something I still struggle with now and again.
The best or nothing at all. ~Gottlieb Daimler