The Mountain Climber

Ah-ha Moment

The store visit by the regional manager had not gone well. Several displays were frowned upon and the stockroom was not as organized as the executive would have preferred. That evening I received a call from the district manager to discuss what had transpired. During the ensuing discussion I uttered a simple phrase, “I am doing the best I can.”

At the foot of the mountains a BBC interviewer approached five mountain climbers preparing for an ascent. She asked a simple enough question, “Will you be successful in reaching the top?”

The first four gave the same hopeful answer using different terminology.

"I'll do my best,' said a big burly guy with a heavy black beard.

"I'll give it my best shot,' said a tall, wiry man with muscles on his muscles.

"We'll see what happens,' said a blond headed poster boy for what a mountain climber ought to look like.

'I'll sure try,' said a young, dark headed woman with bright flashing eyes.

It was not until the fifth climber, a short, scrawny guy, responded that the reply changed.

To see how he answered, scroll down.


"Excuse me?" she said, surprised.

"Yes. I'll make it."

And at the end of the day, he was the only one who made it to the top. Not because he was the biggest, or the brightest, or the most able...but because he was the only one who said he would. Not 'maybe' or 'I hope' or 'with any luck' or 'I'll give it my best shot' or 'I'll work hard at it' or 'I'll try!' All he said was 'yes'. Because he knew that to 'try' is to die...because when you leave yourself a way out, you'll always take it when the going gets rough. When the district manager heard the words, “I’m doing the best I can”, he quickly replied, “Never say that to me again.”

He went on to explain that if you truly believe you’re doing the best you can your mindset will prevent you from achieving greatness.

Instead, he said the proper attitude should be that you want to improve your performance by learning to do better.

After all, by answering any form of criticism by saying you did your best is admitting your best is not good enough. But changing the mindset and remark to the more positive lifelong learning approach indicates the person issuing the criticism is being heard and you have a true desire to overcome the shortfall. Just as climbing a mountain requires the proper mindset in order to reach the top, having (and conveying to others) gratitude for their caring enough to provide you with higher goals for performance.

For more stories about learning from the people, places, things, and events of your life read Rick Weaver’s book, Life’s Leadership Lessons. It contains 53 anecdotal stories along with the powerful lessons the taught him.