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  • Jack Fleming

The Only Question to Ask Yourself

The year was 1952. The future President of the United States sat in front of the Admiral. Jimmy Carter had applied for the nuclear submarine program under Admiral Hyman Rickover. For two hours Rickover tormented Carter on topics including current events, seamanship, music, literature and naval tactics. Each series of questions left Carter feeling less qualified and more inadequate.

Then came the question Carter was waiting for:

"Where were you ranked in your class at the Naval Academy?"

Carter's chest puffed up with pride as he said "I was ranked 59th in a class of 840 sir!." He waited for the praise that would never come. Rickover asked one more penetrating question.

"But did you do your best?"

Carter started to answer “Yes, sir,” but then recalled times he could have given more. Carter finally dropped and hesitantly said, ‘No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’”

Rickover looked at Carter for a long time, and then left him with a question he would never forget: “Why not?” The interview was over.

The Outcome is Not Enough

How do great coaches repeat success? How does Belichick, Saban, Ric Charlesworth, Eddie Jones come back year after year and improve when everybody is telling them how great they are. When players want more, when everybody is looking around feeling great.

"Excellence is doing the best you can, with what you have, in the present moment." - Mark Bennett, PDS Coach

They don't let the scoreboard be their only indicator, they create internal measures against the best version of their collective selves. That's what counts.

That's how Belichick approached the game when they weren't winning, and it's the same formula for when they are. It's just 10 times harder.

Belichick - preparation like on any given night somebody can beat you.

Saban - the process.

Eddie Jones - constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries, not letting success settle him down.

“Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” - Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

So when you get to the end of your day, or after a win when people are telling you well done - just ask yourself:

But did you do your best?

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