Is this your best work?

Not too long ago, I was listening to something [I think it was a webcast], and I heard the following story:

Winston Churchill [former Prime Minister of Great Britain] was approached by one of his aids and handed a speech.  Churchill asked the man, “Is this your best work?”  The aid replied that it was not, and took the speech back to rework it.
Then with the speech revised, the aid again presented it to Churchill, and again he was asked if this was his best work.  The aid thought for a moment and told Churchill it could probably be improved on just a bit more in a few places, and so again took the speech back for another revision.
With the speech further revised, it was once again presented, and again the question was asked as to whether this was his best work.  The man replied that yes, this speech was his best work.  Churchill thanked the man, accepted his work, and later gave the speech.

Now, I’ve tried searching around on the ‘net to see if I could substantiate this story, but short of reading a biography on Churchill and hoping it’s in there, I can’t seem to find any mention of it.  Regardless as to whether it’s an accurate account, or not, I still think it’s a great story for a number of reasons:

  • We often “turn in” or “put out” less than our best work.  Now, there can be various reasons for that.  Maybe there’s a time constraint and we’re under a deadline (either to get the project done, or to get onto another project).  Maybe we’re only being compensated for a certain amount of time or work, and so we stop when that amount of compensation is reached.  And perhaps we’ve gotten so used to doing “just enough to slide by” and “being happy with a passing grade” that we don’t strive for excellence.
  • Churchill [whether he was the man’s employer or client] had an expectation  that he would receive that person’s “best work.”  How many people in our life have an unstated expectation that we will give them our best work, and when we don’t give them our best work, what does that say about us?  Unlike Churchill, those in our life may not ask whether we’re submitting our best, or not.
  • Only our best efforts should be put out to “the public.”  Why do you suppose Beethoven is generally considered to be one of the greatest composers, and why are those compositions which we consider to be his greatest, truly great?  Because of the painstaking effort he put into crafting each note to make sure it was exactly right!  [And woe to the musician who didn’t play it correctly!]  There are most certainly times when our best is not needed, and “good enough” is good enough [and in those cases we should be consciously aware that we’re capable of doing better, but doing so would be wasting time or effort].

In this ever-accelerating (western) world, where mediocrity seems to be the norm [after all, we barely have time for THAT — right?], the question of “Is this my best work?” [or best whatever] should be kept in mind:

  • Did I do my best work in that session with a client?
  • Am I giving this person my best attention?
  • Did I do this task to the best of my ability?
  • Is this the most I can do for some cause I feel strongly about?
  • Am I being the best parent for my kids?
  • Am I being the best partner for my spouse?

If we ARE giving something/someone our best… and that still isn’t good enough for the other person, then it’s THEIR issue.  At least we’ll be at peace, though, knowing we DID do our BEST!



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