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December 10, 2019

Leave Things Better Than You Found Them

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Recently, I had a very powerful realization, and after thinking about it and practicing it over the last few days, I have decided that it will be one of my three priority focus points for 2020. It’s around the idea of making things better than you found them. I’ll get into more detail about why that is so important, but first I want to explain what I experienced.  

I was at the airport, and had just gotten through the metal detector in security. As I was gathering my things on the other side, I saw that there was a line of empty bins crowding up the conveyor belt that caused bins to get bumped and spill over personal belongings, including my own. So, I took a bit of time to stack all the extra bins and get them out of the way. I quickly noticed that my small act improved the experience of those that came after me. As I was thinking about my impact, I went and got a breakfast burrito before my flight. When I went to throw out the wrapper, I noticed there was another wrapper next to the trash. So, I picked it up and put it in the trash. There was an odd sense of fulfillment knowing that my presence improved the quality of the area. Having taken, both, small and big moments since to leave things better than I found them, it’s something I want to prioritize in my life.

But, let’s make a really important distinction. It’s not about making things better than you found them, it’s about leaving things better than you found them. I can’t control the people that came after me who leave their bins out to cause another backup, or the person who lazily tosses their wrapper toward the trash. You must not feel responsible for creating a lasting change in areas in which you are not responsible, and I think that’s the biggest deterrent people experience when thinking about getting more involved.

At it’s core, it’s about adding value in everything you do, and while you’re there, whether it’s in a conversation, on a project at work, or in an airport, you can find a way to do something meaningful in every action you take.

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