Do the small things add up? Short advice on staying the course

If a Boeing jet takes off and flies across the US, even an inch off course, it’ll end up miles off where it’s meant to be.

“If the nose of the plane is pointed only 1 percent off course,” notes Success Magazine’s Darren Hardy, “almost an invisible adjustment when the plane’s sitting on the tarmac in Los Angeles – it will ultimately end up about 15 miles off course.”

It’s a neat metaphor on something minor, adding up to something big, over time.

I had picked up Hardy’s The Compound Effect because, I suspect like many of us, I was seeking fresh encouragement on whether some things, especially after seemingly getting nowhere, are worth it – if the small efforts do actually pay off.

We all, for example, get tired of the tedium. The repetition. The lack of reward. Or not receiving the public accolades that seem to accompany modern success.

  • Do I really need to spell check that email?
  • Is it worth taking an extra five minutes to offer some constructive mentoring to a junior colleague?
  • Will reading the reports the night before truly make a difference, even if no one else does or seems to care?
  • Will this get me noticed or considered?

But here are some important things I was reminded of:

  • Apple, Google, Michael Phelps and YouTube had the same habits, routines and disciplines both before and after they became well known.
  • If you want more you have to become more.
  • Extraordinary accomplishment doesn’t guarantee extraordinary joy.
  • Boosting someone else’s confidence can help boost your own.

Small things do matter. And, just like compounding interest, they especially matter over time.

Even though you may not think it, or not see many others doing ‘small things’, to see any success is to see years, and even decades, of diligence and hard work.

Like many lessons, the sooner we absorb this the better. And, regardless of where we might find ourselves, applying it now will help us down the road in the many endeavours we find ourselves in.

Image source: Doug Mills/New York Times

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