“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.” – Erma Bombeck
Coach John Wooden knows how to lead a team to victory. His UCLA teams hold important National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) records for men’s college basketball, including the most national titles (10) and the most consecutive wins (7). Coach Wooden’s philosophy was based on one principle: give a task your absolute best effort, and let it stand.
In other words, having done your absolute best to complete a task, not only thinking or hoping but knowing in your heart of hearts that you have absolutely done everything you possibly can, let it stand because you can do no more.
Arnold Schwarzenegger adopted the same philosophy on his way to achieving multiple victories, including winning the bodybuilding title of Mr. Universe at age 20, winning the title of Mr. Olympia five times, becoming a Hollywood movie star, becoming a successful businessperson and then being elected governor of the state of California.
In his 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron, he stated:
‘If you want to be a champion, you cannot have any sort of outside negative force affect you. Let’s say before the day of a competition I get emotionally involved with a girl. It can have a negative effect on my mind and therefore destroy my workouts. Therefore, I have to cut my emotions off and be, kinda cold, in a way, before competitions. That’s what you do with the rest of the things. If someone steals my car from right outside my door right now, I don’t care. I couldn’t be bothered with it. The only thing I would do is have the secretary call the insurance agent and then laugh about it. Because I cannot be bothered because I have trained for that and not have these things go into my mind.”
We are often unnecessarily hypercritical of ourselves. This usually happens as a result of knowing that we really did not put our heart into the task at hand; we have disappointed ourselves. The best way to avoid that feeling is to give important tasks your absolute best. Operate at your highest possible standard with the greatest level of effort and excellence, in order to complete it 100%. When that is done, you have left everything on the playing field and you cannot give any more, so do not doubt yourself. Let it stand.
Be true to yourself. You are kidding no one but yourself when you are anything less than 100% truthful about your genuine strengths and weaknesses. It takes courage to face the facts about our own inadequacies, flaws or poor habits. However, it is only through understanding and then ultimately improving these flaws that success will feel more meaningful. Knowing that we stared down our weaknesses and stopped fooling ourselves will bring true courage, accomplishment and a sense of overall happiness: happiness gained from authentic progress by confronting, and overcoming, our inner and greatest fears.
Once you have done your absolute best on a project, do not question yourself anymore. Move on to the next project, proud of your effort, knowing that you have given it your all.
Achieving excellence over a lifetime is a matter of taking steps toward excellence every day. No one can do a lifetime of work in one day. Focus on doing your absolute best in a single day, and let it stand. It’s about putting your best foot forward!
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.