Doing Enough

A couple of years ago, my close friend Mark went into the ICU and he never came out.

At the time, I was living in a city that was a 3 hour drive from that hospital. I had a new job and young kids. We all knew Mark's situation was serious, so I went to see him when I could. We visited a few times over the course of a month or two, then he became unresponsive and died shortly thereafter.

If I'm being honest, though, I didn't go to see him when I could; I went when it was reasonable for me to go, and when it required a reasonable amount of effort.

However, I wasn't dealing with a reasonable situation. My dear friend, with whom I had shared a lot of great moments, was about to stop existing as I knew him. That's an unreasonable situation, and it calls for an unreasonable amount of effort. I had mistakenly applied my everyday sense of "doing enough" to an exceptional situation.

We have this shared concept that there's some baseline level of effort, at which point you've absolved yourself of finger-pointing for things going badly. It's a concept the people who support you will fiercely defend. When you're venting to your friends, you'll hear things like "You did everything you could", or "Well, you've got a lot on your plate". 

This soothing advice is in basically unlimited supply. No matter how much effort you've expended, you can probably find someone somewhere willing to let you off the hook. If you choose to focus on it, you can take comfort in it, but I like to think there are situations where I aim to do more than take comfort.

There are exceptional situations where the outcome is more important than what you feel is reasonable to do. There are even situations where the outcome is more important than what you feel like you can do. Don't let those moments get by you without being able to tell yourself you gave them hell.

If it's your family, your friends, or your dream on the line, you can't trust reasonable effort. They're worth more than that. If you aren't breaking yourself to make it happen, you'll never know if you did everything you could. You'll always wonder what part you didn't bring to the fight because it wasn't convenient.

Don't trust the people who want to let you off the hook.

I didn't cheat Mark, I cheated me. Like a lot of us, I treated a stop-the-fucking-presses moment like it was the normal hustle and bustle and shortchanged myself, and I won't let it happen again.