The Importance of the Little Things: Bigger Isn't Always Better
Is Bigger Better?
In today’s world of bigger is better I want to offer you a perspective upon which to build a pattern of thinking, and thus a pattern for living. Though my target for this article is primarily young men of high school and college age, it does of course, apply to all interested in evaluating another viewpoint than one they may already possess. This evaluation process requires an open mind but, I believe it is worth the effort. My purpose here is simply to encourage you to think about the subject matter and decide for yourself whether or not it has as much value for you as it has had for me.
Many men are sold on a given ruler of success, the means of measurement of their worth or value. We, as an American society, have often stressed education leading to possessions, financial gain, personal and political prowess, social status, physique and the like as outward symbols of inner strength and intrinsic worth. While there is a discipline required to reach this level of living, and there certainly is value in responsible growth, I would encourage those who teach and mentor our young men to go beyond this viewpoint to include some of the following in that training and conditioning as it will impact them and us for the rest of time.
A Little Difference in People
Businessman, philanthropist and self-help book author W. Clement Stone said, “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
It is no secret the impact positive thinking has had on the topic of success. W. Clement Stone and so many others not only believed it, they proved it by living it. They demonstrated that how you think and feel about what you do and how you do it is tantamount to success, however you might define it, but especially if you define it as Earl Nightingale did as “progressively realizing a worthy ideal.” The little things were proven to be a big deal and your attitude toward yourself and others is only one facet of your character but it can make or break you! Of course, it is always your choice as to how to perceive, think, do and live! Just remember, sometimes paying a small price in terms of habit formation and conditioning up front pays off hugely in the end.
A Little Difference in Knowing
One of the elements of growth that I stress to my clients is knowing who they are and what they want to do with their lives. There are a myriad different ways we can discover this knowing. One such way is as result of the loss of someone important to us. This was the case for Marian Wright Edelman, civil rights activist, attorney and founder of the Children Defense Fund. According to her biography in Wikipedia, in 1953, her father died when she was 14, urging in his last words, "Don't let anything get in the way of your education." She apparently listened! She attended Marlboro Training High School there, and went on to Spelman College and traveled the world on a Merrill Scholarship and studied in the Soviet Union as a Lisle fellow. She became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and after being arrested for her activism, she decided to study law and enrolled at Yale Law School J.D. 1963.
This is not, however, so much about what she did as it is about what she said. She is quoted as saying, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” I encourage you to research, even if only superficially, Mrs. Edelman’s biography and you will see how, she too, lived a life believing that great causes can be achieved with a faith that understands the significance of doing the little things well that have to be done to achieve the big results, even if those results cannot be foreseen.
A Little Difference in Doing
If business or social causes aren’t what drives you to pursue excellence and if nothing else in your life is presently meaningful enough to cause you to embrace the idea that little things can amount to awfully big things, how about just being kind. Simple acts of kindness are sometimes disregarded, overlooked or taken for granted. They are, however, actions where discovery occurs and the value of steadily plodding along in life, paying attention to even the most insignificant details is a way of making something big out of something small. And maybe, just maybe, something very big in the life of another will surface as evidenced by this short quip by William Wordsworth. He said:
“The best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts,
of kindness and of love.”
Equals a Big Difference in Being
In every human being lies the seed of greatness. How that seed grows and expresses itself is a matter for each of us to realize. The significance may be apparent to no one else but us. In the end, though, I believe we should acknowledge that it is entirely possible that the one small seemingly insignificant idea, trait, quality, thought or action, can, at some future time grow into a pearl of great price. How we live each year, each month, each day or each moment is worthy of our conscious recognition.
I hope this tiny piece of information will blossom into inspiration that propels you on a journey so fulfilling that you could only say big things do come in small packages! And lastly, I hope that you will also remember the words of Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant,” because I believe the seeds you sow, into yourself and into the people you know or influence, no matter how small, will grow into a harvest that all mankind can feast on for generations to come.
In gratitude, peace be with you!