What does it mean to be “up to the task”? When I first started thinking about this phrase, I thought it just meant that you’re able to do something. Do you have the power or the ability to do an important or necessary thing? But it’s more than just having the ability. It also means, do you have the motivation? Are you willing to do something, in spite of how difficult it is? Is it likely that you will do it? Are you able, are you willing, and do you have the motivation to do something difficult and important? If so, then you are “up to the task.” Here’s how you heard it earlier. Until recently, the Brazilian government has not been up to the task of enforcing the environmental laws in the Amazon region. This is a good example, because the government has always been able to enforce the laws: it’s in their power. But in this case, the government just hasn’t been willing to do so, or it didn’t have the energy to do so. It didn’t make this a priority. It had not been up to the task.
After a few weeks of obfuscating the issue, the government of Jair Bolsonaro is starting to respond to the crisis by sending the armed forces to enforce the law and start to fight the fires. They may show that they are indeed up to the task after all.
The UK needs a leader who can navigate through Brexit. Is the new prime minister Boris Johnson up to the task? Can he do it—and will he? He probably can. He’s a talented politician, a natural leader, and former mayor of London. The question is, will he? The British people are quite divided on the issue. The easy way out for most politicians in the age of social media is to play to their base; the hard thing is to forge alliances, really convince people of your point of view, build support for a course of action. That’s what Britain needs at a momentous time in its history. So is Boris Johnson up to the task, or will he be yet another British prime minister undone by the issue of Europe? Time will tell.
I own a condominium apartment in a building here in Chicago—actually two, the one I live in, and another one. The other one has been giving me problems for years. I bought it at the exact worst moment in the history of real estate in the United States, April 2007. Literally the month the real estate market peaked and started to go down in value. And the result is, I still own it, unfortunately—it’s a long story. Anyway, I’m currently the president of the building’s condominium association. In the US, if you own an apartment, you also own a share in the whole building. You own your apartment, but also a small percentage of the land and the common areas of the building. And all the owners come together in an association to manage the affairs of the building as a whole, even as individual people own the individual units. So I’ve been the president of this building association for a long time, including some really bad years.
During the recession, let me tell you, things were bad. People went bankrupt. People lost their homes. The banks owned a lot of units in our building. People couldn’t pay their maintenance fees. There were units that had their electricity shut off. The owners that were left, we had to manage as best we could. Nobody’s job was safe, so we were worried about ourselves, too. The economy was bad, and it seemed to bring worse news for us every month as a building. And there were days when I was asking myself, am I up to the task of being the president of the building? I knew I could. I knew I had the ability. But when you need to do something hard, it’s more than just whether you have the ability to do something. It’s whether you will; whether you have the energy to; whether you can look inside yourself and get the extra energy you need to face a difficult challenge. That’s what it means to be up to the task. I often asked myself, am I up to the task of doing this? If I’m not up to the task, should I step aside and let someone else do it?
As I was thinking of this phrase, I realized that being “up to the task” is as much a question of ability as it is of leadership. Plenty of people have the ability to do something, but the question is, do they have the intangible leadership qualities that will let them really do it? That’s what it means to be up to the task: A, do you have the technical ability or the skills; and B, do you have the leadership skills, the energy, the willingness, all those intangibles; do you have that, too?
Hey, starting a business. That’s not easy. Plenty of people have the raw ability. But are you up to the task? Are you willing to spend your weekends working on it? Are you realistically going to get up before your normal work day to work on your business? That’s what I’m going through right now. For years, I did this program as a hobby with a general idea of making it a business in the future, but I didn’t take any concrete steps to building out the business side of it. I wanted to make sure I was up to the task of doing this program, week in, week out. Nights, weekends, before I committed to selling any type of product or membership.
Listen, I’m selling an annual membership here. People have paid for a full year of service in advance. That’s responsibility. And I knew that. I was not willing to start a membership program, to sell annual memberships in advance, until I knew for sure that I was up to the task of fulfilling my obligations to my listeners and my paying members every week, all year long, for multiple years in a row. That’s why I waited so long to introduce any kind of membership program, any type of business aspect to this program. I wanted to make sure I was up to the task of doing it every week, no matter what. It only took 185 episodes! But I think I know now that, yes, I am up to the task.
JR’s song of the week
It’s Thursday, so we have a song of the week for you. It’s “Let It Go” by James Bay. I had never heard this of James Bay until JR sent me the song last weekend. I really like it. It’s kind of mellow. The line I like from that song is, “Why don’t you be you, and I’ll be me?” I really like that. The song has already been featured on several TV shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Vampire Diaries.” It came out in 2014 and has been very popular in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. “Let It Go” by James Bay is JR’s song of the week.
This is officially the first episode in which the description of the English phrase was longer than the main content. Was I up to the task of explaining this very difficult phrase? It took longer than usual to explain, but I think I was up to it. And if you’re still with me, then you were up to listening to it all, so congratulations for that.
Remember that we just launched our membership program, Plain English Plus+, with all the extra tools and resources that you need to take your English learning to the next level. By that I mean, a fast version of the podcast, Quizlet flash cards, video lessons, and language learning courses, all related to your favorite English podcast. Everything you need to know about that is available at PlainEnglish.com/plus.
Thanks for being with us again today. Thanks for being part of the best audience in the world! You are clearly all up to the task of studying hard and improving at English, and JR and I are with you every step of the way. We’ll be back here on Monday; have a great weekend!