Mark Twain once defined a classic as “something that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read.”
This can be applied to so much in life. Everyone wants to be great at something, but few want to go through the process. I heard a story on the radio the other day. An amateur musician went up to a famous professional and said, “If I could play as well as you, I would play all the time.” The professional replied, “That’s how I learned to play well.”
We want to “BE” something special, but don’t want to put in the effort to “BECOME” something special. We focus on the results rather than the process. Admittedly, this focus on results rather than process has been a huge issue for me throughout my life. I did not even realize it until I became a teacher and gained a new perspective on development, especially in the education realm.
Over the past few years, as I have moved into more management and leadership roles, I have focused a lot on self-improvement, and the concept of process over results has come up again and again. Anyone who has tried dieting has probably heard that the focus should be on healthier eating and exercise habits rather than a goal of losing a specific amount of weight.
Part of this also means accepting criticism and growing. The greatest in any endeavor (music, athletics, art, business) did not just begin as the greatest. They accepted criticism and used it to improve. They did not only listen to the flatterers that told them they were already great. That is what those full of wasted talent do. Greatness involves taking a hard look at oneself and always searching for areas for improvement.
This focus should also be how we approach politics.
Too often, our desire when discussing politics is to “BE” right. We want to prove that our viewpoint is the correct one. Instead, what if we went into these debates wanting to “BECOME” right. To learn from one another and arrive at the best possible way forward.
Similarly, we want to prove that our party is better than the other party. We tear down those with differing viewpoints and hold ourselves up in self-righteousness. Instead, why not focus on “BECOMING” the best political party we can be? We can work on staying true to our principles and values and finding ways to improve.
Even if you do think the other side is hypocritical or misinformed or weak or corrupt or whatever, so be it. Your focus should be on holding yourself and your party up to higher standards, not just excusing your own bad behavior by saying “what about them.” We should not want to just BE slightly better than the other side. We should want to BECOME the best version of ourselves.
This should also be our approach as a nation. The Constitution begins with “We the people, in order to form a MORE perfect union…” The reverse of the Great Seal of the United States is an UNFINISHED pyramid. The founders never claimed to have created an Eden. They knew that the role of future generations, and their challenge to us, was to build upon their work and continually improve the nation and BECOME as great as possible.
We owe it to those past generations to not look backwards and rest on our laurels, but to pick up their endeavor, and we owe it to future generations to look forward, hand an ever-improving nation on to them, and challenge them to do the same, always striving towards an UNFINISHED, yet continually MORE perfect union.