I’ve literally have worked with people who gave only 50% effort, and did it on purpose. When I asked them why, their reply was “Well, this company does not deserve my best efforts. Once I find a great company, THEN, I’ll do my best.”
But, here’s the problem with that “logic”: Doing your best is like building up a group of muscles, or improving a specific skill. If you don’t work at it regularly, when the time comes, when you really NEED to do your best, you won’t be able to. The following story illustrates my point.
I once spent an entire summer in a cast, from my hips down to my toes, with a bar attached on the heel of each cast. I looked like a gigantic 1960’s “peace sign”, and I could not wait to get out of that heat-inducing and itchy monstrosity. But when the doctors finally took the cast off, it was so demoralizing at first.
My thinking was, once this cast was gone, I would be instantly up and about. But no, a summer spent immobilized caused my leg muscles to be painfully stiff. I could not even sit up to use a wheelchair. Instead they gave me “camp-cart”, which is basically a slab of wood, with four small wheels on the bottom that you lay down and move around on.
With my very short arms, I could have given up and said “This is too hard for me. Besides, soon they will start my rehab to walk again, so, what’s the point of learning how to use this stupid camp-cart?” But something inside me said that I should at least try.
It turned out to be one of the most critical lessons of my life: Even if you believe there is no clear benefit at that moment, giving your best effort can improve your life in unexpected and wonderful ways.
As I suspected, getting my body, and the camp-cart moving along was very hard and dirty work. My hands would reach forward, slapping on the floor palm side down, and then slowly pull-pushing along. It was the toughest workout of my life, but it was much better than being stuck in a bed all day long.
Soon I could roll myself around the recovery ward, attending arts and crafts workshops or going outside to play next to the sandbox. After a few weeks, I developed some very mighty forearms that were very handy later on when I started walking again: First using parallel bars, and then with crutches.
If I had NEVER used the camp-cart, and built up those mighty forearms, my rehab would have been much more difficult. Although I did not understand it at the time, in the future, without my arm strength, I might never have been strong enough to live independently in a big city like Montreal, or walk with my lovely wife Bonnie, or pick up and hug my darling daughter. What else would have I missed?
While I don’t quite believe in the saying “everything happens for a reason”, I do certainly feel that we can take the negative things that happen to us, and turn them into positives. But it all starts with our “best effort” muscle.