They had given 100% all year. Their performance was outstanding. Yet, they hadn’t made the top 10, which had been the goal.
In their eyes, in that moment, they had failed.
I could be talking about an Oscar hopeful, a student hearing back about college acceptance, or a retiree trying to get their book published. But in this instance, I’m referring to a group of high schoolers who were competing in the National Constitutional Law Finals. (Yes. You read that right. 56 teams from around the country, each comprised of 10 to 36 high school juniors and seniors, answering complicated questions about the Constitution.)
The students had spent the entire school year preparing. They had worked during class time plus 2-3 nights a week and one weekend day all year long. Countless adults mentored them along the way and their teacher was with them for every step, giving their nights and weekends, right along with the kids. They had won a district and a state competition to get to the finals.
They gave it their all. They gave 100%. Yet still they missed the coveted goal.
Giving 100% takes grit. And practice. And endurance.
But giving 100% isn’t a guarantee.
You might give 100% to your job and still not get the recognition, promotion or raise. You might even get fired.
You might give 100% to your relationship and still it might end.
You might give 100% to cooking a fabulous meal and end up with something totally inedible.
You might give 100% to your writing and still not get published.
You might give 100% and end up disappointed. Just like the Constitutional Law Team.
So why bother? Why give 100% next time? And the time after that. And then again.
That was the question I wanted to be able to answer for that team. But instead, they provided the answer for me.
Yes, they cried. But they also laughed. And bonded. And eventually moved on to the next big thing.
Because giving 100% is not actually about the outcome.
That team gave 100% for their own satisfaction and their own peace of mind.
They gave 100% because the journey mattered. Because working toward a goal brought them joy.
They taught me that you give 100% because, while the accolades, trophies and blue ribbons gather dust, the experience does not.
You give 100% because it is the solution to not getting caught up in the could have, would have, and should have spin cycle.
You give 100% so you don’t end up second-guessing yourself.
You give 100% so you don’t get trapped in the “if only” maze.
You give 100% so when you don’t get the promotion (or medal, or hole-in-one, or gold star) you can hold your head high, knowing you’ve done your best.
You give 100% so you don’t have to deal with regret, along with the sadness and disappointment.
You give 100% so there is no vitriol when you lose.
You give 100% so you can look back with pride to see all that you gained in the process.
You give 100% so you can get on with the real task of grieving the loss and then moving on; first to acceptance and then to peace.
And finally, to the next opportunity that grabs ahold of you and says, “Oh yeah. To this, I want to give 100%.”