Failure: When Your Best Just Isn't Good Enough

Dear Cleveland,

Not good enough!


Bret Callentine

You heard me right. Not good enough! And that goes for just about everyone. Cleveland Indians: Horrible! Browns: Embarrassing! Cavaliers: Close but no cigar, so still, disappointing!  And don’t think this is just about sports. Rapid Transit Authority: Disgusting. City of Cleveland: appalling. Cuyahoga County: Despicable. State of Ohio: Downright awful. And let’s not stop there. There’s plenty of blame to go around; every one of us gets a share of this shame.  After all, we’re the people that continue to vote these people into power. We continue to buy tickets in support of mediocrity. We’re all guilty of suspending at least some of our individual responsibilities for the yet to be delivered promise of hope and change.

Remember when we were growing up and we dreamt of being rock stars, astronauts or professional athletes? As time went by, if you were lucky, you discovered what gifts you had, and if you were smart, you worked hard to develop them. But unfortunately, no matter how many ribbons you got for participation or how many awards you got for giving "110 percent", most of us found those lofty goals to be just a bit out of reach. But that’s not to say that we were failures. The reality is that regardless of dreams, only the smallest percentage of us makes it to the NFL, NASA or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But real failure isn’t discovering our limitations, it’s refusing to admit to them despite repeatedly missing the mark.

Unlike those of us sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon in a comfortable armchair, the people and teams listed above are missing the mark for a completely different reason. Unlike most of us, they have the gifts. The Cleveland franchises aren’t losing games because of a lack of talent, and the government isn’t facing record deficits due to any lack of education or shortage of intelligence. You just can’t get to that level by accident, so the problem must lie elsewhere. Unfortunately, this isn’t kindergarten, where you still get an “atta-boy, nice try, you’ll get ‘em next time”. With the increased pay grade comes a dramatic increase in expectations.

I don’t care how much you do or don’t get paid. You have a responsibility to yourself to do the best job you can. Anything less is a waste of your potential. And, if you’re in a position where others depend on your actions, your responsibility doesn’t end with just trying hard, but with your accomplishments. And toward that end, if you can’t get it done, you have a duty to get out of the way for someone else who can. I can’t tell you what it’s like to go toe to toe with the Pittsburgh Steelers or step into the batter's box against the New York Yankees, but I do know enough about my own pride to tell you that if I put up the same kind of embarrassing effort as the Indians or Browns players, I would be hard pressed to show my face in public. And to tell you the truth, you’d be hard pressed to get me off the practice field or out of the tape room until I corrected the matter.

The same goes for our government representatives. I’ll never understand how you could sit in a committee and decide that, “Well, we can’t balance our own budget, but it’s okay, we’ll just keep spending and hope that something happens in the future that will fix everything.” It’s not acceptable. You have at your disposal hundreds, if not thousands of individuals, business leaders, professors, and professionals of all sectors who would gladly lend their expertise to solve just about any problem we face. Are we to believe that this is the best you can do?

Everyone needs to get back to the basics. It’s time to throw out the business-as-usual plan and start again with the attitude that whatever you’ve been doing up 'til now is not enough.  We will need to work harder AND smarter going forward. And we cannot accept a minimal effort from anyone.

So here’s the plan, regardless of what you do for a living; it’s time to up the ante. From now until at least the end of the year, I want you to make a concerted effort to do more, better, cheaper and faster. And that goes across the board. If you see a problem, don’t wait for someone else to solve it. If you know how to help, get in there and do it. If you see litter in the street, don’t walk past it, pick it up. If you can pull a couple of extra hours at work, do it, and don’t ask for compensation. Or, if your company isn’t making enough money, don’t just take the easy way out and cut payroll, find an advisor, investigate new options and don’t just settle, thrive.

I know a lot of people are already burning the candle at both ends. If this is you, don’t lose heart. It’s time for you to hold the rest of our feet to the fire. Take a stand and demand the same level of commitment from your co-workers, family and friends. This country used to measure itself against its own achievements. Now it seems to pride itself in entitlements.  Well, the party is over. With budget deficits reaching trillions of dollars, the only thing we’re entitled to is to start paying our bills.

Once you make this kind of investment of your own time and toil, there is no way you will sit back and settle for the same old attitude from an elected official. Stop re-electing mediocrity.  Stop celebrating empty promises and start demanding results. If you meet a politician, stop talking about their proposals and start evaluating the outcome. If you see a professional athlete, stop asking for their autograph and start telling them to get back to the training facility. Take the time to research the candidates and issues you will vote on, and choose wisely where to spend your entertainment dollars.

It’s time we put the promise of prosperity on the shelf and focus instead on the individual demands of societal success.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 5, Issue 20, Posted 10:52 PM, 10.06.2009