Daniel Mai

My Best Ain't the Best

Voicemail question: what do you do when your best isn’t good enough?

A bookmark Calvin gave me

When my best isn’t good enough, I learn from my inadequacy and do better next time.

Best is relative. What you may think is best is probably not what I think is best, and what I think is best is probably not even close to what someone else thinks is best.

But what’s tough to deal with is when I find that my best work doesn’t do myself justice. Either I have unfinished work, or I didn’t get the full credit that was possible. It’s usually not about doing my best, but aiming putting out the best.

I always tend not to do the best. Aiming for the best probably isn’t going to be worth doing in the end. I mean, I don’t spend endless hours proofreading what I write, checking that the words I choose are the best words I can use (I don’t think there’s enough time in the world for that). I don’t write programs that are the best, but I try to make ‘em do what they have to do, hopefully in a beautiful and elegant way.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is the one that requires the least effort. Probably for the sake of trying to fit everything in a schedule, or so that the time and effort investment is actually worth it. A good thing gets the job done; a great thing gets the job done and does it well. At the very least I reach the former, and ultimately I aim for the latter.

Funny, I wrote something about this back in October (but never posted it):

I really don’t think I’m doing that great of a job right now. I tell myself that I can do better than what I’m putting out right now, but it’s just not really happening. I don’t finish my homework, but it’s not even collected anyway. I don’t do well on exams. My scores are horrible on a pure numerical scale (a 70% means I’m not understanding the material enough), but the class curve makes it so I’ve “done well” relative to everyone else. I’m being destroyed in work because I can’t even answer students’ questions (what kind of instructor doesn’t know the answer?), and the programs I write are just unorganized hacks that are amazingly able to do something, but the people using are always issuing bugs.

Instead of doing my best on one thing, I’m doing okay on many things.

Dang, talk about angst. In hindsight, I feel like I made the best out of what I had. I got a lot of experience from last semester and learned a lot. What I considered to be my best work last semester can’t even match the best of me now.

I’ll never be good enough, and that’s why I’ll keep on learning to become better. My best may not be good enough right now, so I’ll need to make myself better in order to overcome my obstacles.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?