As the X Factor grinds inexorably towards the ‘live’ studio finals, the same aimless platitudes dribble from the lips of an endless stream of quivering, panda faced teens who have failed to live up to expectations. “I gave it 110%.” No you didn’t. That is mathematically impossible you oxymoron. If the combined intellectual might of Einstein, Steven Hawkins and Proust would have been unable to muster 100.01% I very much doubt that a 19 year old with far too many syllables in their name and a voice that sounds the death throes of a wildebeest is going to be manage it.
Trying and failing once again today to beat my 5k PB I was able to find a few moments of reflection in the last 1000 metres that it would not be a good day to leave everything on the track. Whatever Steve Prefontaine had within him – the willingness to give literally everything in a race, in a moment, is not open to all of us to access – certainly not frequently. I do push myself to my limits from time to time but 100% is giving more despite it being impossible. I have found it within myself to give everything from time to time but even Prefontaine failed with 30 metres to go, missing out on a bronze medal in the 1972 5000 metres Olympics final proving that even 100% is sometimes not enough.
How can I apply this to being a solicitor, to acting on my client’s cases? No-one can give everything all of the time. I have seen a few who think they are but they compromise quality by working ridiculously long hours. I have received emails at 3am (too late for a late night and too early for an early morning) from people who believe they are doing their best for their clients and their company. I had a friend who worked for 72 hours non stop and that happens quite often in large commercial companies.
I genuinely believe that I give everything I can for my clients, that my firm offers the best service that is available for those we represent. We care about the cases we take on, which is why we are careful about not taking on too many – we want to maintain the highest possible standards of client care. But 110% I don’t think so. The next time I am 100 metres from the finishing line (round 1 of the cross country championships next weekend in the freezing cold rain and mud I suspect) I will once again try to channel Prefontaine. Whatever happens at least I know, I really know what giving everything actually feels like.