Why Not?

He was a young man fresh out of the Naval Academy and a stint in the submarine service. He was being interviewed by Admiral Hyman Rickover for a coveted spot in the nuclear program. Then he got the question that changed his life.

“How did you stand in your class at the academy?” Rickover asked. “Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820,” future president Jimmy Carter answered. “But did you do your best?” Rickover asked. And when Carter could not honestly answer that he has always done his best, Rickover simply said, “Why not?” and then ended the interview.

As parents, we obviously give a lot. We try hard. We do so much for our kids. We might even say to ourselves, in moments where we’re feeling guilty or overwhelmed, “that we’re doing our best.” And while this reassurance is helpful, is it actually true?

How many of us honestly are doing our best? We might be doing pretty good, nobody is starving or being neglected, but are our kids truly getting the best of us? Or does our phone get quite a bit of us too? Is it really the office and our job that’s getting our best hours, our most locked in focus?

As we mull this over and try to be honest about it, Rickover’s rejoinder hovers over us:

Why not?

If we know we could do better, if we know there are things we should stop doing or others we should start doing, what’s stopping us?

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