Last Monday, Alberto Zamora arrived home later than usual. He opened his garage door and drove in. He was eager to see his wife and new baby daughter after a stressful day at work. He knew they were waiting for him upstairs in the condo they had just bought. As he opened the car door, a young man with a gun came in to the garage. He held Alberto at gunpoint and demanded that Alberto give him his money. Even though Alberto had just come from the bank and had over $200 in cash, he handed it over without hesitation. He knew that his wife and baby were just upstairs, behind one locked door. The young man, prodded the gun into Alberto’s face again, saying “Now take me inside your house for more!” Alberto later said that he knew beyond any doubt the choice he would make. He said, “It was like everything got very quiet in my mind and I knew that I was the only thing standing between this man and his gun and my family. My choice was simple. I knew I would die to protect my family. I said, ‘NO!” Alberto went on to offer the young man a drive to his ATM, another cash withdrawal and transportation to anywhere in the city he wanted to go. “But,” he told him, “I will not let you into my home.” Fortunately, the young man didn’t accept Alberto’s offer, nor did he hurt him; he simply ran out of the garage and into the night. Alberto closed the garage door, and went upstairs to his wife and baby.
Not many of our choices are as dramatic as this. Few of us will ever have to face the terror of staring down a gun barrel with a thief or madman on the other end. Even so, this experience points to the simple truth behind all of our choices–the truth that in any moment of our lives we have the power to choose to do our best. You are not a victim trapped in whatever circumstance you face. You have a choice. Alberto realized his choice and did his best to protect his family. It might have gone badly for him, but he had made his choice with that in mind. He knew he was risking his life–but that was the BEST he could do.
The 19th C. philosopher, William James, once asked “will you or won’t you have it so?” It is a reminder of the opportunity we have in any given moment to choose consciously. We have power–even if we don’t always feel powerful. The quote offers the promise that we can always return to our own conscious decision-making and choose on behalf of something larger than our fear. We can choose to do our best. Your best is simply that: it is the quiet, internal awareness of your best effort coming into the world.
Will you or won’t you have it so? What IS the choice you will make? Will you choose to be brave in the face of fear? Will you choose to be kind when confronted with hostility? Will you choose to be compassionate when you find criticism and judgment? You are making your choice whether or not you are aware of it. Your unconscious choice leads to fear, but when you choose consciously, you have limitless opportunities to do your best: to create anything that you are willing to work to achieve. You become an agent of excellence. You do not seek perfection–you only seek to do your best!
My choice today is this: to do my best as many times as I can. Care to join me?