Nice Try

Nice Try (1,128)

April 26th, 2011

I weighed three hundred pounds when I entered the eighth grade. The potential tragedy of that situation was somewhat alleviated by the fact that I was athletic—playing football and basketball. But every year in gym class, for a six-week period, we would do tumbling. I can’t tumble. No way, no shape and certainly, no form.

So for forty-two days, I became nearly convinced that my real name was “Nice Try.” Because every time I would attempt to do one of the numerous contortions demanded by my coach, I would end up in some sort of inglorious heap with a few muffled giggles from the surrounding peanut gallery and the coach ringing out a basal, “Nice try!”

I know it may sound foolish but I was encouraged by those words. A better word might be “salved.” My ego, which was greatly deflated by my failure, was given an ointment of reprieve by being told “at least I tried.”

I felt that way until one day I forgot something in the locker room and I came back in and heard laughter. I peered around a corner and saw two of the coaches giggling as another coach was seemingly imitating my particular prowess at the art of gymnastics. They never knew I was there.

I giggled, too. It was really quite funny. But I also walked out of that locker room knowing that even though people say, “All you have to do is try,” they don’t really mean it.

For after all, I can call my bank on the fifteenth of every month and tell them that I collected some funds for the mortgage and that I did really well, only fall short by a small amount, and the response will never be, “Nice try.”

The policeman stopping me for speeding will not give me grace because I explain to him that I was in a hurry to get home “because it was taco night.”

My family is not particularly generous in spirit when they need something desperately to maintain the dignity of their stuff and I have failed to bring in the bread—or the bacon.

We live in a world that espouses a philosophy of “all you have to do is try,” while simultaneously demanding evidence of our efforts and actually requiring success.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing unless we are fooled into believing that trying is the same as doing. Religion pipes in by saying that “salvation is a free gift of God and we’re all saved by grace.” But if you read a little further, you realize that God gives grace to the humble and he resists the proud, so how prideful is it for us to assume that we’re going to get grace when we haven’t done anything to even attempt to deserve it?

It is an unnatural and fictitious notion. I may be allowed one try without incrimination—and I say, MAY be. But by the time I go for the second bite of the apple, I had better bring some teeth. I have learned this.

Now, I know that some of you may read this and think, “But Jon—we need to cut each other slack.” It’s very difficult to argue with sentiment. Sentiment always seems to be righteous until it’s put into practice. What we need to do is to teach people to ask three questions before they launch into any endeavor.

1. What is it? Ignorance is the foundation laid for all future failure. Most of the reason we do not complete our tasks is because we never had any idea in the first place what it was all about. Don’t be afraid to ask the question: “What is this?”

2. Which leads to the second question: “What is expected of me?” Be prepared for that piped-in answer, “Just try,” to which you should respond, “Okay, I will do that, but when I get done with my attempt, what do you think should happen?” I can survive failure. I cannot endure your disappointment.

3. And the third and final question: “How will I know I did well?” For we all know there is no A for effort. Is there a number? Is there an award? Is there a trumpet that will be sounded? Or better yet, is there actually a finish line? Many people grow weary in well-doing because the task does not have an ending. It is frustrating beyond all measure to work all day long on something that neither provides energy back your way or evidence that anything was actually accomplished.

So you can continue to participate in the “nice try” jargon if you wish. But just as I peeked around the corner and caught a glimpse that day in the locker room of what people really thought of my tumbling, I now know that my efforts are only valuable if I truly understand where we’re going in the first place.

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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