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About doing your best…whatever that is March 29, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, spirituality, Uncategorized.
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I was in midtown Manhattan for a meeting last week. It was a cold and rainy day. And since I was an hour early for my meeting, I decided to spend the hour working and drinking a cup of coffee. It was crowded in the Starbucks as is usually the case in midtown. I walked up to the counter and ordered a tall (translate to “small”) decaf coffee. The barista greeted me in a friendly way and quickly got my coffee, asking me if  I needed room for cream. After the transaction was completed, she made eye contact and in a very sincere way, wished me a pleasant day. Sounds pretty unremarkable right? Well, yes and no. 

It got me thinking about doing one’s best no matter what the situation. New York City is not especially known for its friendliness, right? For me that’s an inaccurate assessment. I have always experienced New Yorkers as being helpful and friendly. Of course, that may be as much about me as it is about them. I expect them to be friendly and they are. But back to the friendly barista. She must serve hundreds of people a day. And yet, she had the desire to do her job well and make the interaction between us as successful as it could be. And I left feeling good about it and her.

So what are the implications of doing your best no matter what situation you find yourself in? I think that we are hardwired as human beings to be at our happiest when we are performing to the best of our ability. Yes, I know that you can probably point to many people you know who seem perfectly content with just doing enough to get by, thank you very much. And I offer that in order to do that they have to go through a whole lot of rationalizations about why they are doing what they are doing. They have to make up a story ahead of time to offer when they are criticized,directly or indirectly, for not performing well. And they have to stifle the little niggling voice in their heads that says, “You’re not doing your best.”

That’s a lot of work—mightn’t it be easier just to perform well at the start?

Jeff is a young man with Down’s Syndrome who works at my local grocery story. He will never be a rocket scientist or a college professor. But he is a genius in his own world. He is invariably cheerful and helpful. And he packs a mean grocery bag with everything in the best possible place–never a broken egg or a crushed loaf of bread on his watch. Whatever Jeff does, he does to the very best of his ability.

When you get right down to it, our life is about making a difference in the world—no matter what the size. Whether you are Barack Obama, Meryl Streep, the barista at Starbucks or the young man at the grocery store, there’s a little thrill than comes when you know that you have made a positive difference in the world.

The next time you want to be lazy, cranky, rebellious or to let things slide, think about your effect on your world. And if you still want to do it that way– go for it. And if you want to have that secret satisfaction in your heart from doing your best—then go for that instead. That’s the cool thing about life—you get to decide.






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