I might wish to disagree with the message, because it implies it is acceptable to believe all that we have already done is, and always was, the best we could have done. So, I would not encourage others to accept it as true unless I was convinced that their average or even their worst was the best they could do. Since we speak of the past, their worst may have been the best they did, bot NOT necessarily the best they could have done.
Besides that, why would we want to say: “This is about the only philosophy of living we need”? By that, should we throw away all the other philosophies? What about the brilliance of Bertrand Russell? Should we throw out Epicurean philosophy, too? Without it, Thomas Jefferson and many of his peers (if he had any) would not have pressed the American revolution as they did, I’m fairly certain of that, but I could be wrong.
While we’re at it, should we throw out John Locke? Daniel Dennett? Descartes? Spinoza? Maybe throw out some of Plato, but not all of it. We might want to keep the “Allegory of the Cave” story that he said Socrates told him about. I think as lot of people need a good dose of that.
Perhaps Lin-yutang’s core message is to call for people to think better of themselves generally, and to pull away from the “conditioning” that has convinced them of what they are not capable of doing, or even not worthy of doing. It’s that kind of conditioning that causes people to have a low threshold of self-expectation, and keeps them from even believing they can do better. But please don’t presume too much about that believing stuff. Believing and truth is not always an equation. But at the same time, neither is NOT believing always an equation with truth. That being said, believing you can accomplish something is far more motivating than believing you cannot. You know that yourself from experience. We all do.
The person who does believe, and always has believed what they are doing is the best they can do, or could be doing, is either delusional or extraordinary. Either way, to “admit to yourself that you have always done your best” is to say you believe you cannot do better than you have already done. Also it says that whatever you have already done could not have been improved upon no matter how much effort or thought might have been applied. I’ve spoken with people who were severely depressed. That’s what they believe. They believe they’ve already done the best they could.
Oh, they don’t believe their “best” was okay; no, not at all. What they believe, what is the ever present frustrating sensation that pulls them constantly further down, is that the very best they have ever done about anything…was pathetic. And that belief often brings them to the very brink of self destruction.
“Best” is often arbitrary, isn’t it? It is a perception of value. And when it comes to values, not everyone always agrees about what is the “best”. Maybe better than just accepting or settling for whatever mess we make of a thing, we consider what we’d have to do to fix it. Often we can’t fix everything at once. But when we understand what is necessary, and work to incrementally increase the quality of our average efforts towards that end, we’ll have some hope of reaching it. Otherwise, we can hope it doesn’t matter, but then we’d usually be lying to ourselves. So, no. To always claim I’ve done my best would come short of a proper philosophy of living if for no other reason than it would not be the truth.
“Sometimes it is not enough to do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.” ~ Winston Churchill