Love unreasonable people. Do good to those who are mean. Give the world your best and get kicked in the teeth. Dedicate your life to building something beautiful, only to see it destroyed overnight. And then do it all over again.
Absurd? Of course. But it also makes perfect sense.
Kent M. Keith wrote The Paradoxical Commandments in the late 1960’s when he was a sophomore at Harvard. You may have seen these commandments on a refrigerator magnet or included in a motivational presentation, or maybe you attributed the list to Mother Teresa. It sounds like something she would say, but it was Kent Keith. Mr. Keith actually published these commandments in 1968 in a booklet form, and sold them at high school student council meetings.
Nearly 50 years later, he still writes, does speaking engagements, and seems like the kind of guy who follows both his own commandments as well as the original “10“. So what are these paradoxical commandments “anyway“?
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway
Yes, these commandments seem absurd and self-contradictory. Just like Charlie Brown trusting that maybe, just maybe, Lucy won’t pull the football away.
That’s what a paradox is. It doesn’t make sense to to love the unloveable, or to keep giving to those who take and never give back. And it’s hard to keep going when no one notices the good that you do.
But do good anyway. Because success is always a process, never an event. Failure is always an event, never a person. And the way you react to others, the way you treat people is a reflection of your character, not theirs.
The paradoxical commandments? The most absurd advice ever? Yeah, I think so. But, like my pal Charlie Brown, I’m going to follow them anyway.