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  • Writer's pictureReuven Sherwin

Sometimes, your best is not good enough. Now what?

Not everyone can run a marathon.


I know the common wisdom (a.k.a "The Internet") says otherwise, and that if you practice enough, anyone can do it.


I disagree. Not everyone can run a marathon.


But for the sake of discussion, let me modify my statement to something we can probably all agree on:

Not everyone can run a marathon in less than 3 hours.


(If you still have doubts regarding the modified version, check out Marathon Run Times By age and ability. And if still, this site claims at most 4% of the population runs a marathon in 3 hours or less.)


You can practice all you want, be as committed as possible - and yet not succeed in completing a marathon in less than 3 hours.


And if you can (congratulations!), be aware not everyone can.

So for the rest of the post, let's talk about me/you/we who belong to the other 96% of the population. And we'll leave the marathon alone.


You all know what is your most painful domain, in which you've practiced, you invested, you committed, you reached your peak, you've made your best - but your best is just not good enough.


Now what?


This happened to me many times. This happened to me in many domains.

It happened in sports, during my Army service, high school, work, my Bachelor and Master's degrees and in other domains.


So much so, that I consider myself a self-proclaimed expert on the topic.

What to do when your best is not good enough?


Let me share my most recent "your best is not good enough" experience.


Krav Maga.


It all started at the age of 7 or 8, as I was watching the neighborhood children go to their Judo classes, and I really wanted to practice martial arts.


At the time, joining the Judo classes didn't work out (for too many reasons, out of scope of this post), but I carried this dream with me for a long time.


In a long overdue realization of a childhood dream, at the ripe age of (CENSORED), I finally stumbled upon the martial art I've always been looking for and never knew - Krav Maga.


Practicing Krav Maga is a continuous uphill battle. The vast majority of practitioners range in age from 15 to 35, and with me being older than most of their parents a - it's a challenge.


It's now my 13th year, and some promotions/certifications (a.k.a. "Belts" - Yellow, Orange, Green etc.) - and the more I practiced, and the more I improved, and the more proficient I became - I can not count the times I felt I'm at my best - but am still not good enough, and I was convinced I will fail to make it to the next level.

Peak Pursuit - Image generated by Photo Realistic GPT and ChatGPT, powered by OpenAI
Peak Pursuit - Image generated by Photo Realistic GPT and ChatGPT, powered by OpenAI

* Don't confuse this with the infamous Imposter Syndrome. It is not a case where I was good but thought I wasn't, and fear that soon everyone will find out.

My best really wasn't good enough for the next level, using objective external point-of-view.


** Also, don't mistake with "Fake it till you make it" - I'm not describing a situation where you're expected (or should hope) to "endure until you'll succeed". My point is sometime you won't succeed... And yet you may want, may choose, may decide. to endure. Because "not making it" does not mean you're ready to quit.


So now what?


I don't know the answer - but I know what worked and is working for me.


First, I realized that all the facts are true. I was at my best, and wasn't not good enough, and  may never be good enough.


It may have reached a local peak, a local maximum - and do



not have the ability to reach the next peak - and surely never make it to the peak-of-peaks.


Next, I realized that as disappointing as this may be, the Krav Maga journey means more to me than reaching the peaks. Improving, and persisting are goals I value, and if the cost of persistence is disappointing for not reaching peaks - then I have enough internal peaks to conquer, even if not reaching the next promotion.


And finally, I was pleasantly surprised a number of times along the road.

I found out that "letting loose" or reaching the certification/promotion goal, and not trying to reach external peaks - but instead focusing on conquering internal goals - allowed me sometimes to also achieve the external goals.


But that was a bonus. A pleasant surprise - but not a condition or a pre-requisite for using the above.


I hope this is clear. Here's a summary of my recipe for dealing with the moment you find out your best is not good enough:

1. Accept. I may not be good enough. Even if I try and try and try and even reach my best - an external objective point-of-view may still decide it's not good enough. Deal with the disappointment.

2. Continue. If you care about the journey, and the achievements, then don't give up.

Simply continue. You'll surely progress - even if you never reach another external goal.

Sometime - you'll be surprised. But Don't make that part of your reasoning.


In the past year, this happened to me twice.


During my Master's degree studies, in a highly-complex Financial Economics course, where no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how good I worked, I failed to get the fluency level I wanted. I practiced and read and viewed and solved so many different quiz - and yet - when the time came for the exam - I just wasn't good enough achieve the grade I wanted (and really thought I would get).


Then, in Krav Maga... I worked, and practiced, and worked harder, and practiced harder, and gave up on a number of other activities just be able to practice more and reach a level "good enough" for my next promotion/certification - and failed twice...


In the farther away past, in my professional life, I was involved in a super-complex project. I won't name names to avoid disclosing too much... I was brought in for my technical understanding and knowledge of the domain, and for my soft-skills (meaning, I know to working with many types, and help them overcome differences). But I also wanted to be hands-on. To get my hands into the nitty-gritty parts of the project. The rest of the team was super-talented technically - and I wanted to play in that domain too. But no matter how many coding hours I put in - I wasn't on-par with the rest of the team - and after two very frustrating weeks - I had to admit to myself the my technical best within that project - just wasn't good enough... And I focused on architecture and soft-skills aspects of the project.


The goal is super-important to me, the external validation (my instructors, my professors, my coworkers) is very important to me. The external validation teaches me whether I'm good enough.


But so is the journey. My internal valuing of "doing my best", and continuously improving.


So even when my best is not good enough (as things stand right now) - I'll celebrate my progress, my improved understanding and implementation - even if it's not good enough for external recognition.


Accept & Continue.

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