7 Rules for Trying Your Best


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One of the first things I often hear out of someone’s mouth, after they attempt to do something and fail, is that they tried their best. It’s good to know that even if you couldn’t get what you wanted, you at least pushed yourself hard to succeed. But what exactly does it mean to try your best?

My version of trying your best seems to be different from how a lot of other people see it. I’ve seen many half-heartedly attempt to accomplish something only to proclaim proudly they had tried their best. But to me, trying your best means actually doing everything you possibly can do to make something happen.

Doing Your Best

There are going to be many instances when I make a solid attempt to succeed in something only to fall short. Perhaps my skills aren’t strong enough or my timing is off. There could be any number of reasons why I didn’t make it happen. My biggest concern is to ensure that not trying my hardest isn’t one of those reasons.

I hate the thought of failing at something simply because I didn’t do everything I could have possibly done to make it happen. There could be times when I really could have succeeded if only I’d truly tried my best. Not trying my best seems like a way to miss opportunities.

So I’ve developed a list of rules I hold myself to so I make sure I’m always trying my best.

1. Go 100% all in

The first rule of trying your best is to make sure you’re actually doing your best. It seems so simple, but this is one thing most people forget about. Trying your best implies you gave 100% effort. Anything below that number means you’re not doing all you can.

Anything less than 100% might be why you don’t succeed. If you’re only giving 90% or even as high as 95%, that extra 5-10% might just be the difference between reaching your goals and failure.

2. Try multiple times

Giving up after the first attempt seems pointless. It assumes that all your future attempts will also fail and that isn’t necessarily true.

It’s like a guy who asks out a girl once and gets rejected. So he concludes that it won’t work out with any other girl anywhere. That just doesn’t make any sense.

Trying your best requires multiple attempts, not just one. Rejection is a big part of the process for success in most fields. When it happens, it doesn’t mean you don’t make another attempt.

3. Remember to self-reflect

This rule follows closely with the second one. If you’re making multiple attempts to accomplish something, you don’t want to just keep trying the same things over and over again. To really get the most out of each attempt, you need to self-reflect.

Self-reflection can give you insight into potential areas of improvement so you can think of new strategies and angles to try next time.

After each failed attempt, you should be getting as much feedback as possible. What made it fail? Where did things go wrong? You can take all that information and improve your next attempt therefore increasing your likelihood of success.

4. Ask for advice

Getting advice from others on what to do is not only a good idea, but is often essential. If you have access to someone who has already succeeded in something you want to do, their advice can be gold.

They can provide insights you never thought about before and details you would normally miss. Perhaps they notice something about you or your approach that could be improved. Many times you might not even see it unless someone points it out to you.

5. Remain optimistic of success

Pessimism is harmful. After you start to think of all the bad things that will probably occur you start to find ways to make them true.

By remaining optimistic, you make sure that all those pessimistic thoughts don’t sabotage your efforts. The last thing you need when trying your best is for your own negative thoughts to get in the way.

6. If you fail, do it in a dignified manner

Even if you try your absolute hardest, you still might fail. That sad truth can make any setback an emotionally devastating experience.

The important thing to remember is to take that failure in a dignified manner. Don’t let failures consume you. Perhaps the reason you didn’t succeed has to do with a factor outside of your control. You may never know.

Of course the urge to get upset will be there. Think of all those American Idol contestants who complain loudly and angrily after being told their singing is terrible. Don’t be like that.

7. Always project confidence

No matter what you do, try to project as much confidence as you can. That even applies to situations where you’re totally freaked out and fear failure.

You can’t expect to get anywhere if you present yourself as someone who has no self-belief. Fake confidence if you have to. Faking confidence can eventually help you build up real confidence.

Everyone faces doubt, but you just can’t let it interfere with your performance. Once you let doubt in, you’ll start to make more mistakes and eventually failure starts to become inevitable.

Always Doing Your Best

Being able to say that I tried my best isn’t good enough. I want to know that I really did do my best. I don’t want to be satisfied knowing that I failed at something and I really didn’t give it my best attempt. I hate to think of all the things I’d miss out on if I really didn’t give it my best shot each and every time.
photo credit: Louish Pixel

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  1. Sometimes we don’t know what our best is and thinking we’ve reached our limit give up too soon. One thing I would add to point two – Try Multiple Times – is that we should have a go in a different way. A subtle change can make all the difference.

    • I agree – a subtle change can make a big difference. It’s like changing the tone of your voice but keeping your words the same. That little change can make a lot of difference to who you’re talking to. Sometimes that little difference is all you need.

  2. Found your site from a RT of ChickyBus and glad I did. Such simple tenants to live by, they’re not difficult to remember but often it’s easy to forget them. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I like it – My son plays football and sometimes gets moody about whether he had a good game or not. He looks to me for guidance and I always tell him to focus on only 2 things: 1) Enjoy it & 2) Try your best. When he does just these 2 things, he improves naturally, learns much easier and gets more out of it physically too (because he tried his best and put plenty into it).

    There’s really no excuse for not going all in and trying your best in pretty much every endeavour – then at least you can say you did, whatever anyone else tells you…

    • Yeah, you make a good point. When you actually try your best, you can learn something much better. Those times when you don’t do everything you possibly could do, you don’t learn as much. I think of trying your best as part of the learning process. When you push yourself hard, you learn and grow. How else are you supposed to reach higher and higher?

  4. Good one Steve.
    You and I have the same definition of “trying my best”.
    I have this conversation with my boys all the time.
    “did you try your best”. they always say yes but when i ask them did you do this, or this, or this or this they usually respond no but that’s too much. To that i respond well.. I get frustrated.

    In their defence i know a lot of adults who give up after a few attempts too. It’s hard to explain to people that part of doing your best and succeeding involves failing 9 out of 10 times.

    Running a blog is kind of like that. A lot of failing and trying things out.

    • You’re right. Trying your best can involve a lot of failing. I think part of the reason most people don’t actually give 100% and do everything they can to reach their goals is so that they can save their ego. After all, if you didn’t do everything possible, then you can at least hold onto that little bit you didn’t do as proof that you could have succeeded. When you do everything you can and still fail, you can’t easily protect your ego.

  5. These are such wonderful suggestions. Some of them seemed obvious to me, others made me uncomfortable… it’s the ones in that latter group that I need to push myself to do. (And just because some seemed obvious, it doesn’t mean that I’ve been doing them, so it was an excellent reminder.)

    My favorite parts of the list were the need for repetition and asking for help when necessary. If I do something right the first time it was either ridiculously easy or a fluke. For example, last night I made dolmas for the first time. The first one was an ugly baby. The next few attempts, same thing. I had written instructions, but they obviously weren’t cutting it. I washed off my hands and went to YouTube. I then watched a video of a woman wrapping dolmas for five minutes straight. I went back and tried again. These were at least worth cooking, but still not the tight little rolls I saw the woman make. By the end of the grape leaves, I was much closer. Still not perfect, but I had done my best, they didn’t fall apart in the cooking, and they tasted really yummy. I will still have to go through the whole process several more times (at least!) before I get them down, but it definitely was not a failure.

    • I’m glad to hear that you finally got those dolmas to work. Or at least you got closer to getting them good. Your story is quite close to how I think of making progress. It’s amazing how often you have to try something, fail and refine your attempt next time until it works. That’s the way I do things. Like you said, something you do things right the first time, but often that means it was too easy or you got lucky. It happens, but more often than not, you need to do several attempts to make it work.

  6. Hi, Steve.

    I really love your thoughts on #6 – failing with dignity. Success and failure can be such personal definitions and I think they are both interesting concepts to explore. For example, if we fail at something, but learn from the experience and go forward in a new direction to attempt again, is it really a failure? Does that then qualify as a success? Maybe it can be both. I think that’s where the self-reflection and evaluation comes in and is so important.

    Makes me think of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Success is Counted Sweetest.” Dickinson suggests that the only way we can truly understand and appreciate success is by experiencing failure first. It’s a great example of how balance works and is necessary.

    • You raise an interesting point and the difference between success and failure. Are the two mutually exclusive? Can you only have one or the other? Learning from failure is a kind of success if you can put it into practice later.

      I’m only a little familiar with Dickinson so I don’t know that poem, but it sounds like something she’d say. It’s interesting to examine that balance between success and failure and how they interact with each other.

      Thanks for sharing.


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