For years I have heard people say “that’s the best I could do.” It’s a nice notion that someone did the very best that they could do. But was it?
To do the very best means that you know what your limitations are, and most of us don’t. Many of our self-declared limitations aren’t a statement of our potential but are really a statement of our inclintion—which is comfortable to do. It takes courage and energy to truthfully say “that was the best that I could do.” Too often this phrase is a waiver on personal responsibility and an end to inquiry.
Saying that something is the best that they could do somehow turns a failure into a success. Basically, they didn’t come up with the goods so they rationalize and elevate by congratulating themselves saying “it’s the best that I could do.” It’s ironic to use the word best at the scene of inadequacy.
I do understand that everyone I know, as well as myself, have weaknesses or limitations; but to stop an expectation of improvement or questioning (e.g. why was it weak and how can it be better?) indicates a defensiveness and laziness that halts any development. I think a much more truthful and useful phrase is, “I can do better and will.”