Every week you and I sit down for a chat about how to build yourself a beautiful home. Not as an end in and of itself but so that your home becomes an instrument to help you live a beautiful life.
And every week that quest requires we bounce back and forth between very big ideas, because design matters most, and very small practicalities, because a magical home doesn’t simply appear out of wishing it so but rather it is crafted, brick by brick, nail by nail, from thousands of tiny pieces and thousands of tiny movements to see those pieces fit together.
The discipline of design is to never lose sight of the big picture, but the discipline of true craftsmanship in executing a design is to hold every one of those tiny movements as individually valuable. Even when it’s exhausting. Even after you’ve done it a hundred times. Even when there are still a thousand more to go.
Life is no different really. The big ideas and ideals are hugely important and worthy of deep thought and reflection. But big ideas like happiness, love, fulfillment, friendship, family, self-esteem, respect, trust, safety, and community, aren’t built in a day. Wishing them so doesn’t make them magically appear. No, big designs are crafted from thousands upon thousands of much smaller pieces.
Now, I wouldn’t presume to tell you what the fundamental building materials of your life should be. But I will tell you that each of us must decide what they will be. And as you go looking for them remember, they will not be grandiose or ethereal like love. That’s the big design. No, they will be humble and simple and often seemingly inconsequential. Like kindness.
When I first met Tina we didn’t love each other, but we were kind to each other. And here’s our big secret: we are still kind to each other. In the heat of life it’s easier said than done. A simple kindness is a thing you can easily avoid. It’s a corner that’s easily cut. It’s a cost that can be easily avoided. But after that first day we continued to be kind, and out of that kindness grew safety, and from safety grew honesty, and from honesty trust, and from trust intimacy, and from intimacy grew a partnership and a family and a community and a life and a house that love built.
And there’s the truth. Love is built from ten thousand simple, small, carefully executed, daily kindnesses. Kindness is the seed of love. Long before we feel safe or valued or free to break our addictions or rise above our past or heal from our wounds or have the confidence to reach for any of the great things we may wish to become … long before there is love there must first be kindness.
I learn kindness from my wife, who always values the little things. I’ve learned kindness from my little sister, who always calls the server at a restaurant by their name and treats them like a real person.
A simple kindness, but simple things are what great lives are built from.
So today, as you continue to dream big dreams, don’t forget to also choose the small materials you will build those dreams from.
And consider this, as the saying goes, in a world where you can be anything … be kind.
That is how you build yourself a beautiful life.