Maybe no one ever told you this, but life is hard. And, let’s face it, for some people it’s much harder than it is for others. This is because in addition to life being hard, it’s also unfair. That being said, I like life. I like it a lot and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the alternative. I’m the first person to say you should go for it – even if there’s not much of a chance because hey, life is short (in addition to being hard and unfair) so why shouldn’t you take every opportunity? But that doesn’t mean that you should be praised for your failures. For your bravery, yes. For your perseverance, yes. For your incompetence, not so much.
The thing is that there’s a huge difference between being the little engine that could and half-assing your way through life. Taking on something beyond your current skill set and pushing yourself to achieve is admirable. Barely doing something and then looking for a cookie isn’t. You don’t deserve to be praised for messing up something multiple times and then finally getting it right. This is especially true if the only reason you didn’t get it right the other times was inattention or general laziness. Most times in life there are no prizes for second place (although maybe there should be. See the life is hard and unfair disclaimer.) So, there definitely isn’t a prize for fortieth place. Do it right the first time and if you can’t (because no one’s perfect), then do it right the second time. Doing it adequately the fourth time is going to get you a “thanks” from me (because I’m Southern and I’m trained to say thanks even if you let the door fall on face, but then look back with a half-hearted “Sorry.”) But, don’t expect much else.
You should value excellence not for praise, but because it says something about who you are. What you give of yourself to the world defines the kind of person you are and who you want to be. After all, it’s actions (not intentions) that define you to most people. They can’t see inside your heart, but they can see what you do even if you’re tired, disappointed in humanity, and would really rather be doing something else somewhere else. Consider it your random act of kindness for the day. Do your best at whatever you do. Do it for yourself. Anything that’s worthwhile is worth doing well and if what you’re doing isn’t worthwhile to you, maybe you should consider doing something else.