Steve Jobs, arguably the most visible mascot of a self-improvement philosophy, took this idea to its limits. He believed that to succeed in a continuous manner at any chosen business, one must embrace it head-on, in all its nitty gritty detail. “To [do] something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, and not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”
To achieve this kind of understanding, you have to be willing to eschew the off-handed approach of unthinkingly accepting the views of others. Independent thinking and the careful crafting of an individualized vision of reality are the only ways to maintain the kind of persistent curiosity that drives improvement. Steve Jobs showed exactly this kind of commitment when he boldly assembled the work group that developed the original Macintosh. He continued to display it when he took the company in an unexpected direction with the original iMac, and then revolutionized music with iTunes and the iPad. In Steve Jobs’ telling, continuous improvement is almost identical with innovation, which is itself essentially disruptive since it denies the validity of an established dogma.
While his example is no doubt inspirational, the truth is that we can’t all be firebrands like Steve Jobs. Fortunately there are other, more practical and practicable takes on this same philosophy that you can apply in your everyday life.
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