“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
Last week I was reminded of a quote that might become my personal mission statement. “Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.” It’s attributed to former president Teddy Roosevelt and it serves as an incredible rallying cry for people that feel disqualified to make a meaningful difference. Let’s break down all 3 parts of this quote one by one.
“Do what you can”. To me it all starts with intention. You first need to make the simple decision to do rather than not to do. It’s a choice to direct your efforts toward meaningful causes that improve the lives of others. To use another Teddy Roosevelt quote, it means you’re willing to be 'the man or woman in the arena', putting their hat in the ring and committing to making the attempt. Those are the people committed to doing what they can.
Then next is “With what you’ve got.” This offers an important reminder that you need to focus on your current capabilities. A lot of people place a ton of value on an uncertain future, and believe that what they have now isn't enough, but one day it will be enough. This comes from a dangerous undertone in culture that pushes us and rewards us for doing more. Make more money, lift more weights, make more friends. But it’s all relative, and when you reach that future date it’s likely you’ll still feel like it’s not enough because your frame of reference changed. So instead of being paralyzed by the idea of needing more, simply do what you can.
And last is “Where you are.” This relates to the earlier point about your capabilities and developmental process, but also to the environments you’re surrounded by. While it might not feel like meaningful impact, the positive influence you have on your family, friend group, work colleagues, and other people you encounter create ripples that extend further than you can imagine. It serves as an extra highlight that you can’t do it all, so pick what’s right in front of you and start there.
Holistically, this quote comes together to emphasize one key point - Start now. There is plenty of need and you are more than qualified, with more than enough to contribute right now. Get started and you’ll see it for yourself.
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