Being the best one can be is a noble ideal, an optimistic exhortation from our parents, or just a quiet personal goal for daily life. The sentiment has been around for a long time.
From 1980 to 2001, it was incorporated in the US Army’s recruitment advertising campaign, “Be All You Can Be, “ a phrase created by an N.W. Ayers’ senior copy writer, Earl Carter. It was replaced in 2001 by the slogan “Army of One” which reportedly was quite borrowed from a promotional poster for the 1976 Clint Eastwood film, The Outlaw Josey Wales. The “Army of One” slogan lasted only five years. While it was good for promoting that movie, pollster and public opinion consultant Frank Lutz said at the time that the “Army of One” tag line was contrary to the idea of teamwork, an essential element of military effectiveness. So, it was
dumped in favor of the phrase “Army Strong.” Of those three slogans, “Be All You Can Be” is my favorite because it appeals to my belief that the underlying theme, self-improvement, is integral to our success in work and in life. Besides, it ties in nicely with today’s post! By the way, that advertising campaign is now part of the permanent collection of the US Army Heritage Center Foundation. And, Mr. Carter, its creator, received the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award for his work.
Be the best you can be is a theme that resonates in today’s fast-paced, hyper-competitive global economy. If it doesn’t ring true for you, it probably should. A successful career is no longer about just going through the paces of promotions, it is one in which an individual pushes his or herself to be the best they can be, as a professional and as a person. The irony is that we get so busy in our lives and are pulled in so many different directions often at a breakneck speed, that we do not have the time, or make the time, to think about what it will take to achieve our personal best. Mostly we just get through the day. Purposeful reflection on self-improvement is usually relegated to our subconscious and we hope that it will somehow spill over into our performance.
Perhaps in an earlier, simpler time, before we entered the digital age that tears down borders and forces us to compete with smart people around the world, a combination of our intellect, education and best effort would suffice. Not any more. Time, discipline, and a concerted effort to achieve our best is the way forward.
We Baby Boomers are slipping to retirement — well most are — but the rules of the game for those of us who want to stick around, and for Generation X, the Millennials and now Generation Z, are quickly creating this new paradigm.
We have to be more focused on Being the Best We Can Be or we will find that the sideline beckons and our roles as subject matter experts, thought leaders, innovators, or entrepreneurs who can change lives, will be unfilled.
If you are not excited by the challenge, dig down and find it. These are challenging and energizing times.