Did You Do Your Best?

Last year I read a story about former President Jimmy Carter. Before Mr. Carter was ever President, he attended Georgia Tech University and then went on to attend the Naval Academy. His dream was to get into the nuclear submarine program, but there was one man standing in his way, Admiral Hyman Rickover. Rickover’s reputation struck fear into every applicant, and Mr. Carter was no different, here’s the story in his own words.


“I had applied for the nuclear submarine program, and Admiral Rickover was interviewing me for the job. It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss. Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time—current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery—and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty. In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen. He always looked right into my eyes, and he never smiled. I was saturated with cold sweat. Finally he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself. He said, ‘How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?’ Since I had completed my sophomore year at Georgia Tech before entering Annapolis as a plebe, I had done very well, and I swelled my chest with pride and answered, ‘Sir, I stood fifty-ninth in a class of 820!’ I sat back to wait for the congratulations which never came. Instead, the question: “Did you do your best?’ I started to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy, and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’ He looked at me for a long time, and then turned his chair around to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget—or to answer. He said, ‘Why not?’ I sat there for a while, shaken, and then slowly left the room.”

All of us are guilty of not giving our best from time to time.


I’m sure we can think of a dozen reasons, but if we had a chance to do it over, I bet we could all agree we wished we’d done more, tried harder, given our best.

Unfortunately, there’s not many second chances in life. So, let’s make sure we give it our best.

Has there ever been a time you’ve regretted not giving your best? What did you learn from it? Let us know in the comments below.

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