Leave It Better Than You Found It

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.  —Warren Buffet

I am drawn to the old and the worn. Companies, buildings, houses – things that once sparkled but have lost their luster seem to call to me. Yes, there is beauty and elegance in the new, the fresh, the current. We have wonderfully talented visionaries who create new things out of nothing and we are blessed with their gifts. Yet, in the old and run-down, we find history, character, charm…potential. The potential to shine again is alluring. It challenges us to look at things differently. It calls us try again.

Age and Experience

As I write this, I think back and wonder if I’ve always felt this way. Perhaps age and experience have shifted my view on the old and the worn. A recent LinkedIn post title asked: Is 33 too old to change careers? Laughing out loud, I realized the question’s naive sincerity in its answer: no, but it won’t be easy. Really? Maybe age has shifted my attitude toward the old and worn.

What is it to leave something better than you found it? It suggests an impact, a difference. Looking at the old and worn with fresh eyes to see its potential. Though the 33 year old career changer does not quite fit my definition of old and worn, I realize that leaving something better than you found it is really not about age. This philosophy is an approach to life fueled by a desire to make a difference. Everyday, you have the opportunity to leave something better than you found it.

Throw-away World

In today’s throw-away, consumption-driven, world, the notion of “leaving something better than you found it” is quite radical. We live in a single-use society where everything is packaged up and consumed in the moment. From relationships to rental cars, we love convenience and immediate gratification. We use what we need in the moment and walk away. Our approach to everything is to take what we want and cast the rest away when we’re finished.

When we approach life with a leave-it-better-than-you-found-it attitude, we determine to make things better. The objective is not to consume but to sustain. We realize that our legacy, even in the smallest of ways, can be one of impact. It doesn’t have to be grand but it has be steady. The list of potential impact points is endless:

  • Communities
  • Cars
  • People
  • Organizations
  • Jobs
  • Customers
  • Houses
  • Charities
  • Bathrooms (seriously big opportunity and the ultimate in paying it forward!)


The determination to leave something better than you found it is a holistic attitude about the world around you and your role within it. For me, it is taking the old and breathing new life into it. My entrepreneurial journey has centered on buying old companies and refreshing them with ideas, energy, and focus. Parallel to business, is my interest in old buildings; I can’t look at an old, run-down building and not see the glint of potential. From there, it isn’t hard to see the potential for a community. What can I do to make it better? There is tremendous satisfaction in turning something around, bringing it back to life, or simply improving things in some way.

The beautiful thing about leaving things better than you found them is that it creates win/win situations. Making a difference this way brings change to you and to the world around you. Leaving it better than you found it could be an act of charity but some of the best points of impact are missions with margin attached.

The beautiful thing about leaving things better than you found them is that it creates win/win situations.

You can profit from it in a variety of ways: financially, spiritually, socially, physically. Turn on HGTV and you’ll see some great examples on shows like Fixer Upper or Good Bones – impact and profit.

This week, determine to leave some things better than you find them. Imagine what might happen if all of us acted upon one opportunity every day! The world would get better really quickly.


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