Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Take Care of the Small Things

Does this saying sound familiar?

"If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things."
-- Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-86) American poet

A car is one of the largest purchases we make in our lives. We spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle we expect to look good, get us where we need to go, sometimes haul a boat or trailer, or carry great loads. We have an expectation that it will last us a certain number of years. Yet how many of us ignore the little things required for our vehicles to meet those objectives?

When you buy a car, why does it come with a maintenance manual? The reason is that even the car companies are aware of consumer expectations. They also have the experience and expertise to know that if you spend small amounts of money as required (look after the small things), your vehicle will be more reliable and last much longer than if you ignore it.

Early in my career I worked for an oil company who did a test which demonstrated this definitively. They drove a car 100,000 miles and changed the oil every 1,000 miles instead of the recommneded 5,000 or 7,500 miles depending on what oil you use. When they dismantled the engine after the test they found that the specs were virtually identical to factory specs. The message was clear - the number one thing you can do for your car is to change the oil frequently (small thing and small cost) to protect the engine which is the most important part of your vehicle.

So how you may ask does this impact my life?

Have you ever tried to run a marathon? I have and it is both an eye opener and a learning experience. If you look at a training plan for a marathon it is all about little things - small steps applied consistently week after week to get you ready for an event that most people see as inconceivable. You have to eat right, have the right shoes, run the right distances at the right times gradually increasing your distance over the 16-18 weeks making sure you don't miss the "long runs" on the weekends. It takes persistence, consistency and self discipline. But amazingly at the end of it all, even someone who has never run in their life can successfuly complete a marthon in 4-6 hours. By applying the small things (the 16-18 weeks of training) the big thing (the race) took care of itself.

Try applying this to your personal and professional life and you will be amazed at the results.

Mother Teresa said that God has created us to do just that--small things. She said, "We can do no great things--only small things with great love."

Look at your personal relationships and ask yourself what you do on an ongoing basis (small things) to enhance them. Take an unselfish view and think about what you could do for someone else who is special to you. If your wife asks you to stop for milk on the way home grab some flowers and surprise her unexpectedly. Send your boyfriend a special text message today that tells him how much you appreciate him. If you're a boss, take your secretary for lunch and let her know you appreciate how she makes your life easier.

In spite of the amount of online business being done today, much of our interactions are between people. Make it a point to learn all you can about your clients, prospects, vendors, and employees. Document this information somewhere so that you can ask about something important to them during your next phone call. I guarantee that when you ask how their daughter's ballet recital went last week, they will be amazed, and you will have separated yourself from the crowd.

This is the 1% difference on overdrive!

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