Don’t always go the extra mile

Why some things just don’t deserve your best effort.

Jessica Wildfire
5 min readMay 11, 2018


Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

Always do your best. Your parents probably told you that. Or maybe a cartoon did. They meant well. But they were wrong. Sometimes, you should do less than your best. On purpose.

Don’t throw your time and energy away on jobs or expectations that don’t matter. Save it for big projects and people who appreciate you.

Back in college, I worked my ass off at my first job — a bar that served “food.” Until the owner threatened to fire me for saying hi to some friends. That night convinced me to stop trying so hard.

It didn’t matter how great I was at serving patrons. The only thing that did was looking busy. After a month, I stopped caring so much. Good enough was fine. Not like a promotion was waiting for me.

Assholes will tell you to give everything your all. They don’t care about your life goals. They just want a flirty waitress who refills drinks before they have to expend an ounce of their precious breath.

They want the perfect amount of foam on their latte. And if you can etch their name on it with caramel, that means you’re really going places. Maybe an extra twenty five cents per hour.

Everyone always doing their best sounds great, in theory. But that’s not what people really mean when they say that.

What they want is for everyone else to always do their best. That way, they’re always guaranteed exactly what they want.

Value your own time

Because nobody else will if you don’t. The world isn’t a hundred percent evil. But it’s pretty close. Lots of would-be bosses stand ready to exploit your talent and your can-do spirit.

We hate letting people down. We’re afraid how we’ll look if we let something slide. Even if that thing isn’t so important.

That restaurant owner who threatened to fire me also liked to inspect the silverware. If he found one smudge on a fork or a glass, he’d lecture everyone in earshot about work ethic and attention to detail. So we were constantly buffing and polishing to keep him quiet.