This Phrase Kills Success Like Roundup Kills Weeds

There's a little bromide that is used when someone is about to fail, usually in a spectacular fashion. Some well-meaning but misguided soul (often the soon-to-be-failure themselves) will utter the deadly incantation: “Well, the best you can do is all you can do.”

Here that screeching sound? It the sound of the brakes on whatever endeavor might be in process. The violent head-on collision of a bad attitude obliterating a difficult (but worthy) goal.

The fact is, “the best you can do” and “all you can do” are usually uttered when we believe we're about to fail, and…

  • We know we didn't plan thoroughly enough.
  • We know we didn't prepare deeply enough.
  • We know we didn't practice enough.
  • We know we didn't perform well enough.
  • … and we have decided we don't intend to do anything about it.

So when we say “the best you can do is all you can do”, we're building our case for why failure is acceptable.

'The best you can do is all you can do'... is usually neither.Click To Tweet

The truth is, “the best you can do is all you can do”… usually is neither your best, nor is it “all you can do.”

If it's not too late to change course (and it almost surely is too soon to quit), here are some questions to ask that might pull your feet out of the fire:

  • Is this really the best I can do? Or do I have more inside me? What would motivate me to do better?
  • Is this really all that I can do? What else can I do? What have I not tried?
  • What can I do differently?
  • What can I stop doing that  might be hindering me?
  • What can I add? Take away? Re-combine?
  • Who can I ask for help?
  • What are all my assets, and how might any and/or all of them be useful to me now?
Replace doing the 'best that you can do' with 'doing what it takes.'Click To Tweet

And if it is too late (it almost never is) … and if you know in your secret heart that you did neither the best you could do, nor all you could do, take some time right now to write down:

  • What do I need to do better next time?
  • How will I do that?
  • What more will I need to do next time?
  • How will I do that?

Maybe it's time to replace doing the “best you can do” with “doing what it takes.”

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • Fiona

    Hello Ray,

    You are the voice that I have been waiting for so long to push me towards accomplishing my purpose. For three years now, I have stood on the sidelines watching and listening from a far while you gave life changing advises on successful writing career.

    However, today’s blog charged me to run in the field and not just stand on the sidelines so to speak. I believe that nothing is impossible and that we can do anything we set our minds to do. But somewhere between our life’s journey, our attitudes change and we find ourselves on the verge of giving up so we “try to do our best.”

    I never noticed that I’ve always “tried to do my best” on whatever it was I was working on until today. Noticing the mistake is the first step to finding the solution – “doing what it takes.”

    Ray, keep doing what you do. Many people are yet to hear your voice and join you on the race.

    Anything is Possible,

  • Thank you for this post. It has come at just the right time for me. I have been questioning my efforts this past week and realize I can do better by just changing mindset. Thank you for the encouragement.

  • Al

    Well put and hard hitting. Thank you

  • Trish

    Thanks, Ray Edwards. I plan on answering every question, every time. Very useful article.

  • Thanks for this inspiration. It is too easy not to give everything we have. And this notion can affect us all!

  • BJ


    Thanks for putting a voice to my thoughts. I never think I’ve done my best if what i’ve done has not solved the problem I set out to solve. I’m always thinking what don’t I know or what can’t I see about this issue. Now I know that I have to encourage others that I spoke with to understand that they have to hold themselves accountable for understanding that they too need to know that using the phrases you discussed is not an option, it is a failure based mentality.