Many years ago, I had this silly little catch phrase that I’d use to make failures sting less: “Well, there’s always someone better and someone worse at _____ than you!”
I thought it was so brilliant for a while there. See, you are reminded that even if you fail at something, you’re not the worst at it…so buck up! At the same time, stay humble because YOU’LL NEVER BE THE BEST AT THAT THING ANYWAY.
How stupid is that?
In my defense, I was young and dumb (of course, there was always someone younger and dumber and older and smarter than me, right?!). And in certain ways it does work, as far as keeping perspective is concerned. It’s also kinda true, probably.
But justifying failure with that is nonsense.
First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being the worst at something. I can say with absolute confidence that I am the worst in the entire world at the following things:
- Wrapping presents
- Eating tomatoes
- Resisting singing along to Katy Perry songs
I’m still alive, and none of those things bother me. I mean, it’d be nice to spend less than an hour wrapping a damn DVD, but it doesn’t ruin my day.
I’m also really good at a lot of things, though I’m not sure I’m the BEST at anything. Okay, I really think I might be the best at clearly reciting the alphabet backward in less than 5 seconds, but I don’t know how to verify that or why I spent so many nights practicing it as a kid in the first place. Thanks for not letting me have a TV in my room, Mom and Dad.
Very few people are the best at anything (example: for you sports fans, Mike Trout is already a lock for the Hall of Fame at age 25, and we still aren’t unanimous on him being the best baseball player in the world). Unless it’s something completely quantifiable, we can’t really say anyone’s the best at anything without it being an opinion.
Editor’s Note: Other than Denzel Washington being the best actor and Nicolas Cage being the worst. Try fighting me on that.
Editor’s Note: The editor is Jeremy. It’s me. Sorry. Carry on.
Bill Gates is undeniably the best at having money. Usain Bolt is the best at running the 100-meter dash because he has the fastest time. Kelly Murphy is the best at running marathons in a graduation gown. Yeah, I had to look that one up but it’s pretty impressive!
The point is, that little catch phrase of mine? It’s just begging for anyone who takes it seriously to accept mediocrity. Safely planting oneself between “not the worst” and “not the best” it not where you want to be. Nor is it where I want anyone to be!
Even if you don’t become the best at something, that option should remain viable so you strive to get there. Otherwise, what is stopping you from doing the bare minimum just to stay between the two extremes like 16-year-old Jeremy told you to?
I’ve always truly believed in the best versions of other people. It’s why I am generally optimistic. It’s why I felt safe sleeping on a random couch 10 feet away from a 60-year-old Icelandic man I’d just met. It’s why I felt perfectly comfortable going on a spur-of-the-moment hike in Godknowswhere, Germany with people I’d known at my hostel for all of 12 minutes.
So telling anyone to justify their lack of effort with shit like that catch phrase? Horrible, especially now that I’m a baseball coach for other 16-year-olds who are just as wise-ass as I was!
If you really are the worst at something, work at getting better at it. Especially if you love to do it. Who am I to tell you that you should stop cooking, learning how to sing or shooting 500 free throws a day because there’s a strong chance you’ll never be “the best” at any of those things?
Sorry teenaged, catch-phrase-abusing Jeremy was such a dick. Be better than him. Be the best.
Okay, I’m gonna go work on my present-wrapping skills now.