Minute #572: Might Fail

“I really admire you,” Yoni said. “I don’t think I could ever do what you did. Disaster relief is commendable, but for me the job was just too big to finish.”

“Finish?” Chaim echoed. “Who says you have to totally fix what was destroyed? To be honest with you, if you saw what I did when we arrived in the flooded neighborhoods, you would realize immediately that no human task force could be expected to fix it 100 percent.”

“I think you’re making sense,” Yoni acknowledged. “Perhaps my anxiety robbed me of a great mitzvah. I must learn to keep my focus on trying without expecting to fully succeed. I think if I do, I’ll accomplish more and perhaps even sleep better at night.”

Some people accomplish a lot because they think fast and act quickly. They make mistakes and have to backtrack to correct, but do so with the same nonchalant approach. Others mull over the details of a task and create pressures that immobilize or at least slow them down. You might think that this “perfectionist” type would produce error-free results, but the facts don’t confirm that assumption. Not only do they err as frequently as the casual worker, but they also suffer from a troubled sense of self. They lack peace of mind because they don’t realize that to expect perfection in this world is unrealistic.

Sometimes “completion” is not in the realm of reality, but that is no reason not to make an effort. Our Sages teach: “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it” (Avot 2:21). Hashem expects full effort; not success. Realize your shortcomings and achieve peace of mind by doing your personal best.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Have you ever taken a course in listening? If you’re like most of us, the answer is no, yet of all the skills that can help you get ahead [in] your studies, career, or social encounters, learning how to listen properly should be on the top of the list. (Avi Shulman, Candlelight, p.63)