Non-Zero Days

Stop Trying to Be The Best

Everyone wants to be successful, but nobody wants to fail to get there.

When we typically think of failure, we mean something dramatic like “humiliating experience.” Dramatic failures, the kind we see in movies, biographies, and news headlines, only occur every so often.

The kind of failure we’re most likely to experience, however, is less about what other people think and more about the disappointment we feel toward our own selves. It’s the failure that comes from having a goal, taking the first step towards that goal, and realizing that your first step is very unimpressive by your own standards.

In an interview, Ira Glass shared the following insight:

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Doing the things you have to do in order to achieve success will require you to fall short of your ideals on an almost continual basis. 

This is disappointing. 

Even if other people are encouraging and supportive, we still know that our work isn’t very good.

We all have goals and we all want success, but that means getting started. And getting started means getting acclimated to the fact that your starting point will feel like a form of failure.

The solution: Stop trying to do the best!

John Henry Newman wrote, “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.”

It’s easy to turn the gap between “your best” and “the best” into an excuse for procrastination. But buying into this mentality usually leads to self-defeating conclusions like, “I don’t have the time, energy, or ability to do the best today, therefore I’ll wait until a later time when I can give it the quality it really deserves.”

What if we’re requiring more from ourselves than what is necessary?

If you wait until you can be the best, you’ll never get better.

That’s what Non-Zero Days is about. The point is to push yourself to do one thing every single day that forces you control your thoughts, focus your energy, and overcome resistance. Even if you only have the energy and willpower to do a single thing outside of your comfort zone, that’s still better than nothing. Don’t worry about being the best today. Just get started.

Today, I want to want to challenge you to a non-zero day.