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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Calling BS on Doing Your Best

Written By: Carol Roth | 40 Comments

When businesses, professional endeavors or even personal pursuits aren’t going as intended- or perhaps aren’t going anywhere- the easy default is to give up, but give yourself comfort by saying that you have done your best.

Almost without exception, this is a bunch of crap.  That phrase- doing my best- amounts to weasel words at best.  Usually, it’s like pulling the rip cord on trying.

When an obstacle is in front of you, what does doing your best mean?

Maybe you tried or maybe you barely tried.  But chances are, you didn’t do your best.  You didn’t reach out to every person in your network.  You didn’t go to the lengths where not a single stone had been left unturned.  You hadn’t gone down every potential path. You didn’t give 100%.

People often claim to have done their best.  I hear it in regards to entrepreneurs working through sticky business situations, friends struggling with diets and all kinds of individuals trying to reach goals that say that they have given “their best” when, in actuality, they just have put forth a decent effort at best.

If you have an exercise goal, are you really pushing your strength and cardio to the limit?  Do you do that last push-up until you collapse on the floor? Or does your head stop you before your body really does?

If you have a business goal, have you really used every possible resource available?

If you have a problem, have you really asked everyone that you have access to for help?

That extra bit of effort between good and your all is what will lead you to progress.

Be in tune with what it means to do your best.  Fitness guru Tony Horton says, “Do your best and forget the rest” and “if you do your best, it is always enough”.  But you need to legitimately give your best for that to be true.  Don’t stop yourself short when you can really get to the next level.

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
  • Chris_Eh_Young

    Right at me this morning. Thanks for the kick in the arse Carol.

  • Nick

    This might be one of my favorites by you Carol. Terrific.

  • Best is not absolute. Doing your best to your capacity before insecurity of constant rejection kicks in may be 50 critical emails for one person and 1000 for another – moreover this might even be the same person on two different days/time periods in two different state of minds. Let’s be honest, there are always other avenues left to pursue for any endeavor. So the only point here is not to say ‘I did my best’ but to say ‘ I made as much effort as I was willing to invest in that particular thing.’ thus taking responsibility for the consequences of giving up. And if someone tells me that , I’m okay with it. 

  • SteveP333

    Thanks for calling this phrase out for what it mostly is, a cop-out

  • I’ve definitely found that it’s easy to keep checking the easy things off the list, and shoving off the things that need “extra effort.”  Nice crystallization of how to get to that upper level.

  • Diggin’ the Tony Horton quote (as I am in one of my workout recovery weeks and my ass is thoroughly kicked!).
    I think people do confuse an effort (or any effort) with doing their best, and that’s a big misconception.  Too often the limiting beliefs and doubts can creep in and prevent full potential from being reached.   Great write up, Carol!

  • Jane Morrison

    You’re right on Carol, intention is not enough but we need to give 100% to any of our goals. Napolean Hill said ” Constancy of purpose is the first principle of success.” Focus is our best friend, however we often get distracted by the detours and obstacles that get in our way. 

  • Syd Ku Collie

    This was an interesting blog and it truly makes you critique yourself. It brings out the difference between people who say what they want and get results and those who just talk but no results. . . . Endurance (it knows no time limit it only seeks out to COMPLETE not half finish anything but accomplish) great post

  • caroljsroth

     @Chris_Eh_Young My pleasure.  Go get em.

  • caroljsroth

     @Chris_Eh_Young My pleasure.  Go get em.

  • caroljsroth

     @Nick Thanks Nick- short and sweet (or not so sweet)

  • NMPacella

    Doing your best is not relative so it is meaningless, and not a little whiny. In my business it’s about doing what is professional and what your contract requires you to do. Doing more than that is what gets your referrals.

  • caroljsroth

     @Louisa Leontiades I believe the key breakthroughs come when insecurity kicks in and you keep going.  Get knocked down 7 times, get up 8.

  • caroljsroth

     @JasonAnthony Thanks Jason.  And you will appreciate that I did core syngergistics just yesterday.  🙂

  • caroljsroth

     @Jane Morrison It’s amazing how Napolean’s words are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them!

  • caroljsroth

     @Syd Ku Collie Thanks Syd.  Endurance of mind is a difficult thing, isn’t it?

  • Regarding exercise……… no. I am not doing my best

  • caroljsroth

     @RizzoTees Me neither.  Let’s get on that!

  • There’s a great scene in “Facing The Giants” where the team captain is blindfolded and asked to do a death crawl to the 50 yard line. He wants to quit time and again as he’s carrying his teammate on his back while he crawls across the ground, but he committed to his coach that he would give his absolute best and not quit until he had nothing left to give.
    The boy not only crossed the fifty, but crawled all the way to the opposite end zone carrying his teammate on his back. It’s a great reminder to all of us that sometimes seeing the goal makes it easier to quit before we actually make it because we can look back and see how far we’ve already come.
    Great post, Carol!

  • Excellent post. For me, I use “doing my best” to describe what is really a situation where I have not ranked priorities from 1 to 10, and focused on 1 first, 2 second, etc. In other words, doing too much scattershot, and then failing to see the problem in my approach.

  • Even Working Harder by REALLY giving the Best does not Catch the worm always… you must KNOW some technics and methods of how to solve problems and KNOW what to do…than you succeed…
    Start some Total Quality Management skills like: 
    Break down problems in managable pieces, so you can solve one problem piece a time 
    Think that Problems are just valuable ways and indicators for my business improvement planning
    All problems can be automized in systems, so they don’t occure anymore,
    and so on…
    You make yourself happy with it by doing that AND earn some extra free time, right as you thought to have, when you startet to be an entrepreneur, am I right ? 
    Bob Jasper
    Quality Coach
    The Art of Quality Consulting
    Orlando, Florida

  • Great post! Lots of great quotes in the comments too. Let me add that I remembered. “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” So, instead hiding behind the “well I’ve tried my best” BS, up your game until you succeed. If there’s no lack of effort you may want to sharpen your skills.  There’s no failing except in quitting. ~ Sorry if that’s raw.

  • DaveBaldwin

    Definitely! Thought for the day: why is it that “do your worst” and “do your best” have so much in common?
    Every time I complain about things not turning out, my mind immediately points out a number of things that I could have done but didn’t do. Sometimes, I’ll realize that I should have waited to pull the trigger until I had a better plan and more resources – as you often point out about starting businesses.

  • EricReamer

    Love the way you think, @caroljsroth ! You always put out the best quality articles, and this Friday, experiencepros will share you with our listeners!  Thank you!

  •  @caroljsroth Sure. But I still have every compassion for our humanity….especially when accompanied by humility & honesty.

  • caroljsroth

     @lisarobbinyoung Love that- I will have to check it out.  Someone else sent me a scene from a Sean Connery movie that also resonated, but it’s a bit crass….

  • caroljsroth

     @DianeDP  That’s a great way of looking at it.  And sometimes we rank our priorities by what is easy to do or what we like to do, vs what is the best for us to be doing.

  • caroljsroth

     @qualityexpert I think of doing my best as working hard and smart.  Effort without strategy, direction, focus, doesn’t seem to me as a true best effort.

  • caroljsroth

     @SandorBenko Love that- thank you!

  • caroljsroth

     @EricReamer  experiencepros Can’t wait!

  •  @caroljsroth You’re welcome. The quote was from Churchill ~

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  • shahrukh12

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