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Your Kindness Shouldn’t Make Sense

Some things happen in life that are simply life changing. We may not intend to take part in them and in most cases, we can’t stop those things from taking place. We can’t control everything that happens to us. (Be thankful we’re not cows!) The good news is, with persistence and determination, we can change many of the things that happen next.

Years ago, the former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge said persistence beats education, talent and great intellect. That’s great news for folks like me who are in short supply of education, talent and great intellect because persistence starts with just showing up. More than how much knowledge you know, take pride in how much effort you show. Employers will pay a hefty sum to have someone who simply shows up on time and stays until the job is done, so if you develop reliability as a certified signature move, you’re already halfway to success.

The best way to practice persistence is simply to strive toward being the best version of yourself. Don’t practice persistence in trying to be something you’re not. For example, I’m not a synchronized swimmer. Sure, I can hold my breath for an epically long time underwater. Seriously, I’ve won every who-can-hold-their-breath-the-longest competition my family has ever had, but my body does not flow like a porpoise. Heck, I don’t even like getting into pools that much. And while we need time to practice persistence none of us has an infinite supply of time. Therefore, we need to be picky about where we choose to invest our time.

Focus your persistence specifically on exploring areas in which you want to grow. If I don’t want to be a synchronized swimmer, I don’t need to spend my time practicing elaborate dance moves or wearing fancy bathing caps and nose clips underwater. Instead, I can concentrate on treading water in the vicinity of greatness, investing my time examining where I am today and where I want to be tomorrow. That way, I can figure out which steps I need to take to close the gap and become the best me I can be. Keeping an eye on the steps that lead toward continuous improvement can simplify your options and clarify the decisions right in front of you — even when it isn’t easy to understand where this improvement is going to take you.

I specifically remember when the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced at the Macworld conference that Apple had invented a new cellular phone. It was January 9, 2007. By then, Apple had already turned the music industry on its head by making digital, portable songs available on its iPod mobile digital device, so entering the mobile phone space seemed like a natural next step for them. But for me? I was still perplexed by why anyone would think it necessary to bring a phone and a camera together. For years they had been two separate things and joining them together never seemed like a problem that needed to be solved to me. It may be difficult to imagine today, but at the time I could not get my head around the advantages of combining them. But, boy, have I learned my lesson since then. The lesson is this: if we keep striving for continuous improvement, it may just take us to a spectacular future we can’t even get our heads around, yet.

Apple understood persistence. They didn’t wait until they had figured out every feature that would ever be on the iPhone before they rolled it out. They just shared the first version with the public for starters. And while we were enjoying our new iPhones, they were hard at work creating the second-generation iPhone. Understanding that strategy makes it easy to imagine that behind the scenes they were also probably in a nearly constant state of vision casting for the next iPhone versions 3, 4 and 5, and so on; each time knowing that not all of their ideas would come to fruition. Still, Apple stayed focused on whatever versions were to come down the pipeline sometimes years before they would be released. Corrections, additions, bad ideas, successes and failures were all part of each version’s story.

If, for instance, you were the human version of the iPhone 3, what features would you want to see in the iPhone 4? What does the next version of you look like? What about versions 6 and 7—years down the road? Brainstorm ideas. Write down features you can’t even understand how to build yet. It doesn’t matter where you’re from but where you’re going. Heck, you don’t even have to see that far. I have some of the worst eyesight of any seeing person in the world — my glasses look like coke bottles, and because of my nearsightedness, without them I’d have to sit a book on the tip of my nose to read it — but to begin visualizing the road in my mind, I only need time and imagination.

Being persistent does not mean you have to transition immediately from being the “iPhone 1” to the “iPhone 5,” even if you can visualize where you want to be. Patience is a great friend of persistence. It takes grit — progress not perfection — to learn, understand and accept that persistence requires patience. Did you get that? Persistence requires patience, which requires grit, which requires persistence. It is an endless world of discovery (and requires courage to do it every day you get up). And when we see folks down the road who are already standing where we want to be, we must remember that the road to get there requires persistence. Pray for the wisdom to understand the next sizable step you need to take to get there.

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On every iPhone box, the text reads, “Designed in California.” Guess what it says on your packaging? “Designed by God.” You are his creation and his design. He developed you from scratch, and he has wired you for growth. All you must do is charge toward continuous improvement.

Don’t be afraid of the word improvement either. I’ve been guilty of avoiding the word at times. Admitting that we need improvement could be considered a negative thing; it’s like admitting we’re not already giving our best. But just like I came around to the camera phone, I have learned that improvement is actually an amazing word. It’s not an admittance that we stink as we are, but rather that we are in a constant state of bettering ourselves.

We have the opportunity to renew our mind by reimagining what is possible. It happens by turning kindness upside down, by giving ourselves and others the margin in which to continuously improve, by shifting our perspectives and approach, by embracing our uniqueness, by failing big yet dreaming bigger and by finding joy regardless of the outcome. Kindness is the challenge laid out in front of us to ourselves and others, and that is by living a completely irrational life!

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