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Iyar 5766 – On Being Minimum, Maximum, or Somewhere in the Middle – by Rav Hadar Margolin

5 Iyar 5766
On Being Minimum, Maximum,
or Somewhere in the Middle

By Rav Hadar Margolin

I once heard a brilliant statement from a noted educator. It was said in reference to his institution’s expectations of its students. He said:

“Our minimal expectation – is maximum performance”.

Brilliant! Doesn’t this convey a very clear message to the students?

The implied lesson leaves no doubt. There is no room for complacency, and average performance will not be tolerated. You need to perform your very best. Nothing less.

I really do think this is a brilliant statement. It succeeds in giving a strong message in a few short, well chosen words. However, that’s where the brilliance ends. The content is – in my exceedingly humble opinion – bordering on tragic.

Will it really inspire? I don’t know. Frankly, I have my doubts. That isn’t the point I would quibble about. But one thing I do know – it can definitely be destructive.

What if you don’t give your maximum? How would you define yourself when you somehow give only mediocre output?

The quote we saw above would term this an absolute failure. Is that not clear as a crystal, or as obvious as a frown on the face of a chronic underachiever? Even the “minimum” was not attained! Shame on you, despicable worthless good-for-nothing!

Do you know anyone who actually gives “maximum” output? I don’t. Everyone could – on some level – do more. This approach, therefore, is a sure recipe for perceived failure, and a certain promoter of despair.

When relentless achievement of perfection is the standard for a ‘minimum’, we are all born losers.

Our holy “quote” is not just a sentence someone once said. It is very relevant. It is representative of a common and prevalent source of frustration for so very many people. It is as widespread as disappointment is in underachieving people.

Of course, you should shoot for your best. Give it all you got. That goes without saying.

But please, allow some self appreciation – even when you missed a few good shots.

The minimal expectation is just that – it’s minimal. And maximum is maximum – special for angels and extraordinary people.

And you will be somewhere in the middle – and I hope you learn to celebrate that!


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