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It’s not the big things that get us what we want in life. It’s the little things. It’s the daily, weekly, monthly accumulation of small actions that matters.
I’d like to suggest one small thing you can do–a few thousand times–which will illustrate my point, have a big impact, and change the trajectory of your career.
First, let me explain.
A big pile of little things makes a much bigger difference than a little pile of big things. That’s because the little things, done repeatedly over time, add up.
The daily doses of exercise, reading, eating right, sleeping well, being kind, nurturing yourself and others–those are the things that matter over the long haul. It’s weird that the boring, mundane habits, so different from the shiny objects, are the things that matter most. It’s also weird that we all understand this reality, yet so few of us act on it.
Most of us get distracted by the big, glamorous, shiny things that make us feel good for a moment. We jump on those big things at the expense of the smaller, seemingly mundane, alternatives.
To illustrate: joining the gym feels like big progress–for a moment. But big success comes from a vigorous walk each morning for fifty years. Buying a diet program feels like big progress–for a moment. But big success comes from eating healthy for fifty years. Buying practice management software feels like big progress–for a moment. But big success comes from a weekly management meeting with your team. You understand the idea, and I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Unfortunately, we’re pretty good at ignoring the things we already know. It’s too easy to be distracted by the Next Big Thing–even if we know it will only matter for a moment.
I wish I had done this
I’m not special, unique or particularly good at resisting my desire for a quick hit of what feels like progress, even if it isn’t progress. I love to do something, buy something, try something new or different–even when I know it’ll only help for a moment. I guess it’s that dose of dopamine that sucks me in. I fall victim to the same bad choices many of us make.
Now, years later, there are things I wish I’d done instead of chasing after dopamine. I didn’t see the little things at the time. The big things are so shiny. Nobody is selling the little things. They don’t have a good marketing manager or a sales rep, nor do they feel like they convey status or prestige. The little things need better press, right?
The draw of the big things is strong. New office space, chatbots, Google My Business, social media, CRMs, SEO, AI, document assembly, practice management systems, and all the other shininess draw me in.
But all too often, they don’t generate the results we hope for, and we waste our opportunity to do the little things because we’re blinded by the shiny things.
I hope you’ll join me in my effort to do something small–which is really big.
Together we should:
Here’s an example of a small thing with a big impact. I suggest you give it a try. I wish I had. It won’t give you a dopamine hit, but it will make a difference.
This small thing is a big thing if you do it for long enough. Follow these three instructions:
1. Jot down a list of the important people in your life. Include friends, family, employees, partners and co-workers, clients, and anyone else you consider important.
2. Twice a week, look at the list and ask yourself if anyone did anything you should acknowledge.
3. Then recognize it with a call, a text, a handwritten note, a message on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook.
That’s it…could it be any easier?
Because we are lawyers, I suspect we’ll need rules, guidelines, and parameters for what constitutes recognition-worthy behavior.
How about we let that go this time?
How about we let anything positive fall into the acknowledgement zone? Maybe we set the minimum at simply swinging the bat at the T-ball game. No contact with the ball required. Can we just make it easy?
My idea of a small thing might not fit with your plans. That’s okay, because I know that, as you sit here reading this, you’ve already thought of a different small thing you’d like to do. You know the impact it’ll have over the long term. My hope today isn’t that you do the thing I suggest, as much as it is to encourage you to do the thing you know will make a big difference for you.
I’m filled with what-ifs
At this point in my career, I don’t have as much time left to earn the big impact of small things done consistently over time. What if I had spent four decades, twice a week, doing what I just described? What if I had used my spare few minutes going through my list, coming up with something to acknowledge and then telling folks that I appreciated what they’d done?
Can you even imagine the impact I’d have had, doing that for just a few minutes, twice a week, for forty years? More than two thousand glances at the list, followed by a few minutes of delivering the recognition? In the time it takes me to cull my Netflix queue, I’d have made someone’s day.
What did I get for my time instead? Not much.
Now it’s your chance to decide how to spend your few spare minutes. They add up, they have an impact, they change your trajectory. I hope you’re already doing what I suggested. But if not, isn’t now the best time to start, both for you and for me?
We spend countless hours studying, evaluating, and comparing the big things, and then we make a choice. Rarely do we get what we expected for our effort. Redirect that time to the little things and you’ll discover something you already know. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference.