You Can't Do Everything. So Do the Best With What You Have.
It's not a sexy mantra, but it can save you a lot of stress and frustration.
Repeat after me: “I will do the best work with the resources available.”
This has become my mantra. It isn’t sexy. It doesn’t make for a great motivational poster. But it is true and honest, and I think of it often. It’s also what I repeat every time someone tells me they’re stressed-out, with too much to do — and it always calms them down.
I hope this mantra can do the same for you. I’ll walk you through it.
The first part is obvious: “I will do the best work.” Of course you will! We don’t work to be average, as NBA Hall of Famer Chris Bosh once told me.
The second part is where all the power lies: “With the resources available.”
Let’s be frank. Unless you’re the CEO of Apple or Google, you do not have all the resources you need. That’s just a fact. You don’t have enough time to get everything done, enough money to hire the right people, or perhaps enough know-how to skip ahead in the journey.
You simply do not. You do not have those resources.
But you do have some resources. They are, yes, the resources available. I’m talking about time, money, skills, or anything else. You should use these resources in the smartest, most effective way possible, but also be mindful and realistic about their limitations.
That’s because you cannot compare yourself to what would be possible with more resources. This, I believe, is the source of a lot of our stress. We imagine what would be possible with double the resources and then feel frustrated when we are unable to achieve that with our actual resources.
I’ll offer some limitations of my own.
The first is this magazine. I am privileged to work with an amazing team here, but we are small in number. Just flip to the masthead and look at who is making this magazine. There are not many of us! And that means we must make choices about what’s possible. One example: When I was a junior staffer at a bigger magazine, my editor would make me spend hours writing fantastically clever captions for all the photos. Today, the Entrepreneur edit staff is too small to devote hours to that task — but I’ve concluded it doesn’t matter. You, dear reader, are likely not buying this magazine for the photo captions. That’s why we spend minutes on them, not hours.
Sure, I could sit around thinking about all the ridiculously luxurious things we could do with double the staff, but that’s pointless. We will focus on how to make the absolute best magazine we can with a small and talented staff — which is to say, we will do the best work with the resources available.
Meanwhile, I host a podcast called Build for Tomorrow. It’s an ambitious project that requires tons of research, and as a result, I get an episode out once a month. Would I like it to be weekly? Of course, but I don’t have the time for that — and making a great monthly show is more fulfilling than either making a subpar weekly show or just making no show at all. I made a sacrifice, and I’m living with it. It’s enabling me to do the best work with the resources available.
In all of this, I am making a conscious decision about how I want to define success. We all have the power to do this for ourselves. If “success” means something that you do not have the resources to achieve, then you will beat yourself up for not being a success. If “success” means constant growth within your means, then it is within your grasp.
I choose to focus on maximizing what I can control and not worry about what I can’t. I know it isn’t easy. Sacrifices will be made. Progress will be slower. But if you choose to think this way, you, too, will find that you’re happier, more rested, and better prepared for the long game, and that’s what matters most anyway.
If you are stressed-out, then give yourself a break. Just make sure you’re doing the best work you can with the resources available.
Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, and author of the forthcoming book Build For Tomorrow about how people can become more adaptable in their careers and life. He is also the host of two podcasts: Build For Tomorrow (yes, same name as the book), which is a show that debunks people's fears of change; and Problem Solvers, about entrepreneurs solving unexpected problems in their business. He writes a newsletter about how to find opportunity in change.