• R.D. Kardon

"The Best" versus Balance: Part I


best

/best/

adjective

of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.

"Be the best you can be"

noun

that which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable.

"Do your best every day"


From the moment we pop out of the womb, we're inspired to do our best. Sometimes, the prompt is a motivation: "You'll win if you do your best!" Sometimes it's meant to console: "Don't feel bad, you did your best."


Best = success. Didn't do your best? That's failure.


Your best what exactly?


I've heard this word in my head all my life. If I succeeded, well, then I must have done my best. If I failed, I didn't. And then there's Yoda, who reminds us, "Do or do not. There is no try."


Isn't there, though?


I've "tried" lots of times. And failed. And sometimes I pick myself up and try again, and sometimes I walk away, deciding that some challenges simply aren't worth the effort.


And that's ok. Now, my parents and grandparents are likely rolling around in their graves, since 'work ethic' was the style in which I was raised. Like Jurgus Rudkus in Upton Sinclair's classic The Jungle, and my own main character Tris Miles in Flygirl and Angel Flight, the solution to any situation where failure looms like a dagger hanging over one's head by a very thin thread, is to simply work harder.


I watched this Puritanistic way of thinking ebb mightily after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, where thousands of people woke to a regular Tuesday morning, never imaging it would be their last. Time is short, we realized. We became less judgmental of people who simply walked away from situations that didn't serve them. We wanted more love in our lives, not more things.


That stuck. For a while. Old habits, traditional, ingrained ways of thinking don't vanish without repetition, and belief.


We moved forward. Maybe we lost some belief.


Creeping back into our old grooves, we became more and more frustrated, and then, just a few years later BAM! The housing bubble burst and there we were again, in crisis. The needle moved again...just a little...toward the simpler things that actually made the corners of our mouths trend up. Toward it being ok to try, and not succeed. Or realize that trying, in and of itself, is a measure of success.


Why, though, does this slow march toward the softer measures of success tend to peter out so quickly? Maybe because of another old chestnut, the erroneous belief that true balance is possible?


Is it?


We'll explore that next time.





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