Worth Trying Our best For

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Thursday afternoon. Scrimmage practice. Coach is drilling the boys pretty hard. Big game tomorrow. We have to want it, Coach says. If we’re going to beat them and win, we’re going to have to want it more than they do. If they’re going to give a hundred percent, Coach says, we have to give a hundred-and-ten percent. We won’t be able to live with ourselves if we give any less. That’s what Coach says, but I don’t listen to Coach. I don’t play sports, I play academics. Academics must not be as hard as sports. I don’t need a hundred percent to get an “A”; all I need is a ninety. In Academics, it’s not even possible to get a hundred-and-ten percent. It’s the same way in life. We can’t give a hundred-and-ten percent. We can’t try our best, and nobody ever does.
Trying for something you want is an interesting and yet still very human thing. To try is something between a test and a gamble. We’re putting our own abilities to the test, yes, but there’s something more at stake, because we want whatever it is we’re trying for. When we really want something, and we try for it, we’re really betting a piece of ourselves on whether or not we’ll succeed. The more effort we put in, the more of ourselves we lay on the line. When we succeed, we win it all back. When we fail, though, we lose that part of ourselves, because we’re forced to realize that we never had the ability to do what we were trying for in the first place. That, I think, is why failure hurts so much. If we all listened to Coach and gave a hundred-and-ten percent, and we lost it all, we’d have nothing left.
Coach says if we don’t give a hundred percent, we must not want it. That’s not true; we want it, but we don’t give a hundred percent because we’re afraid of what it might mean if we lose the big game. Mediocrity is a defense mechanism, because as long as we hold a little something back, we can walk away from any failure saying that we’ll try harder next time. So, we try a little bit less than our best, and that way we can always have something to hold onto, to come back from.

Perhaps I was just a little hasty when I said that nobody EVER tries their best, though. There are the rare occasions. A man, for instance, will never and can never run as fast as he does when running for his life. At that point, it doesn’t matter if he puts everything on the table because, unless he wins, he’s going to lose it all anyway. So that’s the exception, I guess. We try our best only when we have nothing left to lose. Or when we don’t care what we lose. We bet everything we have only when everything we have is nothing in comparison to what we could have.
Most of us will spend all our lives giving eighty or ninety percent, and we’ll be fine. Some of us, the lucky ones, find something out there that’s a little more valuable, something we’d trade the world for in an instant, something that we really will try our best for.


It is my sincerest hope that, one day, you, and maybe even I, will find something worth trying our best for.





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