Is that the best you can do ?

Well, again, it has been a while. I could give a bunch of “reasons” like I work 10 hours a day, have to cook, commute, whatever. Those are all just excuses though. If I really wanted to be a successful blogger, I’d do whatever it took (legally and ethically) to achieve it. Thankfully, the goal isn’t to become a blogger. I would be terrible with such a low post rate.

I want to write about a lesson I’ve recently learned from my boss. I’ve been working in banking at ING since the beginning of May and it’s going well (hopefully my colleagues agree). I work with a very smart team of four and I couldn’t be happier with how my internship turned out. I work fair hours, I am surrounded by kind and intelligent people, I get paid well, and I get to travel the whole month of August with family because of the contract timing. Pretty much perfect for me.

On to the story. In recent weeks I’ve been working on a lot more pitch content and I feel like I’m learning or understanding more about how things work in banking. When I do my work, I’m still learning of course, so it takes me longer than it would for someone who has done it multiple times or has relevant experience and understands the whole picture. Usually, by the time I “finish” my work, I have done a pretty good job. I tell my boss it’s done and he says, “is that the best you can do?”. Sometimes he hasn’t even looked at it at this point. Sometimes he’ll look at it and ask the same question.

I could take this as an insult, but I know what he’s doing, or at least I think so. I’m not insulted at all. He’s pushing me to be better and to give it my all in everything I do. When he asked me if it’s the best I could do the first time, I was caught off guard. I thought maybe I screwed up or something. I couldn’t say that it was the best I could do. (I think we can almost always do better) I needed to double check my own work to make sure it was the best I could do; that the information was correct and everything was perfect. In school I used to push for 90%+. That can be pretty demanding, but I managed to come out of high school with a 95% average. In university I only needed to maintain an 80% to keep scholarships, which became my new effort threshold. I think that’s where my its-pretty-good mentally originated. I did enough to get by, not enough to get ahead. There was no incentive for me to do any better than 80. Everything was the same whether I got 80.1% or 99.1%.

How could I, someone who considers himself to be so driven, not be giving it my best? If you want to be #1, you have to give it your best, because if you don’t, someone else will, and they’ll win instead of you. Don’t do enough to get by, do enough to get ahead.

I don’t need to write much more. The point is, reflect on everything you do and ask, “is this the best I can do?”. One disclaimer however. Sometimes it’s better to just get started rather than perfecting something. Take this reflective question into the context of what ever you’re working on.

Thanks for the lesson boss. Now I don’t quickly finish my work to say it’s finished. I make sure I can say it’s the best I can do.

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