Am I doing my best?
As a kid in school, we would begin our morning with prayers, pledge, hear a summary of news, debate, or a talent show, and then head to our classrooms. We called it the morning assembly. During these assembly sessions, our school principal at Sherwood Academy of Education in Hyderabad, India would always ask us to reflect on a question “Am I doing my best?” . Several years later, this happens to be one of the best leadership lessons. The secret to this is simple – the context of best shifts based on the situation & you almost always can do more. In circumstances, when you’ve done your best, it helps you to let it go/move on.
Growing up in school in India where most of the benchmark is how much you score & rank in a class, the context was about doing your “best” in learning & preparing for exams, and competing for ranks. At the end of every test/exam, I could always do more and other students would agree that they could do more. Similarly while playing a game, we could always do more. If we were playing Cricket there is always a misplayed shot or a dropped catch or lapsed concentration or passing the ball incorrect in soccer or defenders not in position at an opportune time. Bottomline, at the end of any of this exercise we could simply ask “Am I doing my best?“. The answer was yes. Now think about your current and ask yourself “Am I doing my best?”
Raise the bar
Well, when you are working through a project or a challenge that is entrusted to you, ask yourself “Am I doing my best?“. The brilliance of the question here is the context shifts. Each project, situation, or challenge brings an opportunity to learn & grow. Asking yourself the question, helps you introspect and recognize that what you knew yesterday for yesterday’s challenge can help you move with more wisdom but the challenges today require a different “best” from you. The situation changes, the definition of best changes & the learning process started all over again. It helps you continually learn & grow. Now think about your current and ask yourself “Am I doing my best?”
Learning to reflect
As time progresses, there would be many difficult situations, many crucial conversations and at the end of each of the instances (or) at the first moment of reflection, ask yourself “Am I doing my best?“. You will always find a different way of approaching and a hypothesis of it yielding different results. Now this reflection helps you effectively lead change, modify your approach, rally people, and forge outcomes. Here is what is important, you learned to reflect, improvise and grow. Now think about a situation today and ask yourself “Am I doing my best?”
Continuing to improvise
As time progresses, you would be in situations of setting vision/outcomes and leading teams and instead of reactively reflecting on “Am I doing my best?“, ask yourself proactively. Chances are you will always find a better way of doing it. It now helps you improvise, push yourself, push your teams. This is all about improvising and pushing boundaries. Now think about a situation today and ask yourself “Am I doing my best?”
Preventing victims mindset
In many instances, I have noticed individual present themselves as victims (e.g. i am assigned too many projects, I was asked to pick up a difficult project etc.). Each one of us requires a space to vent and feel liberated and victims mindset lets you sympathize with yourself. However, that is going to stagnate the thinking. To bring velocity to that mindset, ask yourself”Am I doing my best?”
Letting it go
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. There will genuinely be instances where you did your best and things simply didn’t pan out. The best answer in those instances may be let it go. Letting it go can be about liberating self, situation or empowering others. Now, think about situations where you are doing your best & can let it go, ask yourself “Am I doing my best?”
A great tool
Several years later when I watched Stanford Commencement address by Steve Jobs, wherein he said – Stay Hungry & Stay Foolish. It took years of wisdom to even connect the dots and say it was yet another way of asking “Am I doing my best?” Will you ask yourself the question? What are such simple leadership lessons that you’ve learned? Now ask yourself “Am I doing my best?”