When I was in the second grade, I brought my report card home. In Social Studies, I had gotten a “C”. (Back in the fifties, teachers graded all students, from first grade to twelfth grade by the traditional letters.) I was mortified. I had never gotten a “C” before, and I was worried about what my Mom would say.
I do remember that we had been studying the Plains Indians, and I just couldn’t grasp the concept that there were groups of Indians that were part of different tribes and they all lived out West on the plains. I’m not so sure what I found so hard, but I really just didn’t get it. I had never been much further west than the state of Vermont, so I didn’t understand how the topography of the United States could be much different than what I knew in Vermont.
So I didn’t do well—I got answers wrong on the worksheets as well as on the test at the end of the unit. I was used to getting B’s and some A’s. I thought a “C” was the end of the world as I knew it.
I brought my report card home and showed it to my Mom. She asked me, “Barbara Ann, was that the best you could do?” I assured her it was. What she said next was a lesson I’ve carried with me for the rest of my life. It was a lesson I’ve used in all walks of life—as a student, as an athlete, as a parent, as a teacher, as a coach—indeed, in whatever endeavors I’ve undertaken. What she said to me was, “Barbara Ann, I don’t care if you get all “F’s” on your report card, as long as that’s the best you can do!”
Wow! What a relief that was! All I had to do was give it my best shot and whatever that turned out to be, that was good enough. That released a ton of pressure! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told myself, “Just do the best you can because doing your best is all you can do and all you can do is enough!”
As an elite athlete, racing against the best skiers throughout the world, sometimes, the pressure would get to me. I would start to worry about how I was going to do. But anytime I caught myself straying from this lesson and was able to get back on track, racing was a lot easier. Whenever I gave myself permission to do my best, ski racing was fun. When my last thought before leaving the start was, “I’m just going to do my best!”, the results came much easier.
Thank you Mom, for teaching me this lesson! (Years later, Mom told me that when she gave me that advice, she thought I was “slow”! No matter, it’s still a lesson I carry with me today.)