Have you ever asked yourself, "Is it okay not to try my best?" After all, not every opportunity that comes our way represents a life or death situation. This question comes up more often then you think, and the temptation to do less than your best work is always there.
In my world of professional speaking, there is nothing like the sensation of stepping onto the stage, in front of a large audience, feeling great, and knowing I'm ready to give it my all! It makes me glad to be alive, and I am ready to do my very best.
Of course, not every presentation or moment in life brings with it that level of excitement. As a matter of fact, most days consist of only a fraction of those powerful motivators that help us to fight to do our best. And because the mundane is more the norm, the temptation is always there to do less than your best.
Disguised as a rational thought, it is a whisper that you might hear inside of your head that suggests that you don't really have to do your best... today. For me, it might begin with these words: "You don't need to take this presentation very seriously..." As it speaks to me, it continues to build its case.
- "You don't need to prepare. You've given this presentation dozens of times before."
- "You don't need to show up early. You've set up for presentations like this a thousand times before."
- "You don't need to work too hard on this presentation. No one of consequence will be in the audience."
- "You don't need to expend too much energy. The audience is much smaller than usual, and their energy is nonexistent."
- "You don't need to go above and beyond. They aren't paying me as much as usual.
The temptation is always there. If you think this single-minded focus just applies to speakers and presenters, you are mistaken. Those same whispers are there for most of us, and the temptation to do less than our very best is always there. The most dangerous excuse of all is this one:
No one will ever know.
Of course, that isn't really true, is it? No matter how hard you work to convince yourself it's okay not to try your hardest, the most important person of all will know; you. You might hear the whisper telling you this: Nothing is at stake. Wrong again.
I will tell you what's at stake: The pride of performing at the highest level you can, regardless of the circumstances. Pride is not the only thing at stake here. You can add your personal reputation to this list.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler, a tremendous fighter in the 80's and the middleweight champion for seven years, once said, "When I wake up, I train as hard as I can. But when I wake up weary, unmotivated, and I don't feel like training, I work twice as hard. That's what separates me from my competition."
We all cherish the mornings we can wake up and enjoy the more exciting aspects of our jobs and of our lives. For me, I love the challenge of disciplining my mind to perform at an even higher level during those unglamorous and probably tedious moments, and thumbing my nose at those whispers. As a matter of fact, why not go one step further and double your efforts to really teach those whispers a lesson! At the end of the day, I'd like to think that's what separates us from our competition.