The Critical Mistake: The Battle Between How Hard You Try and How you Try

How hard you try is hardly ever enough. That's only half the equation. If you don't factor in how you try, then you're screwed.
How Hard You Try vs How You Try

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Here’s the truth.

You’re best will never be enough if you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

This post is the result of a conversation with my spouse regarding efforts. She was getting upset when she was “trying her best to do something” but upset and disappointed when it never worked and did more harm than good.

I had to tell her she was trying her best to achieve the right thing with the wrong methods.

Let me explain.

There's a Difference Between Your Intention and Your Means

Just because you have good intentions or hope for the best, it doesn’t mean it will happen. Just because you try, even if you try your best, that’s not enough either.

Most people believe that if they try hard enough, that’s enough to get all they want. That couldn’t be more wrong. There’s more to the equation than just how hard you try. There’s also how you try and what you actually do.

Here’s the equation:

how hard you try + how you try = results of trying

It’s not just a question of how hard you try. It’s also, if not more, important about how you try and the methodology you use. You can put your blood, sweat and tears into something but still get little to no returns. Then there’s someone else who seems to be hardly trying, but they get everything.


Because that person is either doing something more effective or efficient.

They’re doing something that works, and you’re using something that doesn’t.

Would You Use the Sun to Guide'e You North?

Imagine you’re travelling to the north. You decide to use the sun to guide you.

What’s the problem?

The sun rises in the east and falls in the west.

So no matter hard you try, whether you follow the sun in the morning or chase it in the evening, you’re screwed. You’re “trying your best”, but your efforts mean and will amount to nothing. Why? Because the guide you use to achieve is not suited or appropriate for what you want to achieve.

Here's What you do

First, you must establish if you’re willing to do any work. You don’t know as yet whether it takes brute force, blood, sweat and tears or whether there’s a hack. Should it come to it, commit that you’ll do whatever is necessary. At the very least, set boundaries for how far you’ll go.

Secondly, acquire perfect clarity on what you want to achieve. The specificity of your intentions and goals defines the path you want to take. Do you want to do something well? Or just quickly? Is it a long-term solution or a short-term fix? Unless you understand exactly what it is you want the perfect solution to do, look like or impact, then you’ll remain lost and most likely waste your efforts.

Thirdly, what is the most effective and/or efficient means? The last thing you want is to assume that you know the best way. Chances are, you probably don’t. So do yourself a favour and do your due diligence. Ask someone, research, and evaluate your options. The purpose is to arrive at a journey fit for the destination.

Finally, all there is now is to execute. You’ve defined your goal and assessed your options. But all of that means nothing if you aren’t going to action it. This is where “trying your best” comes in. If you’ve followed the steps correctly, your “effort level” will be directly proportional to your “output level.”

I learnt this lesson the hard way. Don't make the same mistake.

The core responsibility of a drummer is to keep the timing for the rest of the band. We’re the metronome – the clock. We keep everyone in time and tell everyone, including you as the listener, when we change sections. 

Less is more.

The truth is, no one is ever really impressed by the basic Billie Jean beat. It’s “simple” and boring. But that’s what gets you the gigs. Do too much on a gig at the wrong place, and you’ll get fired. Simple as. 

I learnt this the hard way.

When I started playing for artists and on stages, I was desperate to impress them. The harder I tried to impress, the more I disappointed. I was so confused because I was trying my best. I was desperate to show them that I was good. 

As I got older (and after the shows), I understood that I was trying to achieve the right thing by the wrong methods.

If I wanted to impress those artists and the band, I should have laid back into the groove instead of trying to show off my speed and play too much.

Eventually, the less I tried to be impressive or to do the cool and quick fills, the more I impressed those I played with.

We all do what we think is best. We all have our own rationale and reasoning for doing what we do. 

But the truth is, sometimes we’re just plain old wrong.

Unless we become introspective and seek to evaluate and understand what we want to achieve, why and the best route to take, we’re stuck at the mercy of hoping that our guess is right.

You can never guarantee that everything you do is right. But you certainly increase your likelihood of being right when you recognise that you might be wrong and seek the best way to achieve it.

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