Want to do it Big? Do it Small First.

So, just by reading the title, I know that quite a few of you reading this are probably familiar with this topic, most likely from one of Jonathan Brush’s speeches or from Dr Myers’ leadership courses. However, though I’ve been familiar with this concept for a long time, a simple encounter made me rethink what it means to do well at the little things. So, if you’ll lend me a few minutes of your time, you might rethink it as well. A little while back, we had a package delivery from UPS; a common occurrence at our house. I went out to grab the package from them, and it was our usual, friendly delivery driver. He asked me, “Are you still in school?” I replied, “Nope, just graduated actually!” He congratulated me, and then followed up with a question that I’m sure that a lot of you get quite often, and are, to some extent, unsure of the answer to: “What’s next for you?” Did I answer with a profound anecdote about having an open and bright future? Or an appropriate scripture reference about God’s plan for our lives? Nope. I gave the typical, graduate answer of, “Not really sure. I’m thinking I’d like to go to grad school, or get a job if something comes up. We’ll see what happens I guess.” The delivery driver smiled, and replied, “That’s cool! Sounds like you’re going to do big things! Just don’t forget about the little stuff along the way! See, that’s what I do every day: go around doing a whole bunch of little things the best I can, hoping someday it’ll amount to something great!” I smiled and nodded, and he got in his truck and left. However, as you might imagine, my thinking about his statement didn’t leave with his truck. Was I forgetting about the “little stuff”? What does that mean, and should I even care with all of the other stuff I have going on? That encounter was a few months ago. After a few months of contemplation, study, consulting with mentors, and trial and error via life experiences (which included graduating with my Bachelor’s, starting grad school, and entering a new career field), here’s what I’ve learned.

It’s Scriptural (God Said So)

So, before I give any of my reasons for focusing on life’s little things, you should listen to someone way smarter and more important than me: God. One of the best examples of this concept in the Bible can be found in Matthew 25, a parable that Jesus taught called The Parable of the Talents. In the story, a master distributes three different portions of money, called talents, to three of his servants, and leaves for a while. Two of them go out and use this wealth to make more wealth, and when the master returns, they have doubled their master’s investment. The third, however, who received the least amount, decided that instead of risking losing what his master gave him, and thinking that it would be overlooked because of the larger amounts that his fellow servants were working with, he simply buried this wealth in the ground, so he could return it to his master. Now, go ahead and take a wild guess at which servant the master was displeased with upon his return. The third servant saw that he had not been given nearly as much as the others around him. So, he decided that, instead of working hard to make use of his master’s investment with him, that he would put it to the side and continue with his work. How often are we given “talents” of our own, that we think are small, and bury them away? These talents can take many forms: opportunities, skills, people, time, and so many other “mundane” things. However, so often we find ourselves laser-focused on the “big” things in our lives, such as our school or job, that we forget to widen our view and look at what other gifts that we have been given that God has called us to make use of. He has a plan and a purpose for every little thing that happens in our lives. The more that we are attentive to that plan, the more that we are able to truly see the beauty of His plan, and experience the spiritual fulfillment that comes from that.

Not All Little Things are Created Equal

After finding out that this concept wasn’t just a nice thought by my delivery man, or something that sounded good from a speaker, but also a command from God himself, I started asking what these “little things” really were? This was the point at which I started doing the wrong things for the right reasons. I started to over-analyze every little task, encounter and happenstance that went on in my life. If something happened, there was a reason for it, and I needed to make sure that I was doing it right. Through that, I learned some important lessons and got to see some things I wouldn’t have before, so I don’t regret it. However, rather that becoming more successful and fulfilled, I found that I was just really tired! The problem with trying to figure out the purpose and design behind every little thing in life is that you’re not designed to do that. That’s God’s job, and whenever we humans try to do His job, it doesn’t go well. Fortunately for us, God thought of that, and He has designed us each for specific purposes, and to be inclined to specific things. He didn’t create all of us to be world-renown; he created most of us to do things that the world sees as commonplace. But those commonplace things are exactly what He has designed us to do, and when we find the things that bring us fulfillment and do them for the furtherance of His kingdom, He is glorified. While this truth is most often told and applied to big things, such as career choice, they also apply to little things. In my case, I found that when I tried to take a ton of opportunities to interact with people that I didn’t know, I found myself very drained of energy. Though I don’t regret trying to be an extrovert for a bit, turns out that I’m not designed to be one. What I did find was that I loved taking advantage of opportunities to come alongside friends that I already had, and find new ways to bring joy into their lives, one small action at a time. Most of the time, the little things that you need to excel at the most in life are the things that you already have in front of you. It might be something that you already do, but need to do more, or do better. Or, it could be something that you’ve thought for a while could be a good thing to do, but have found excuses not to do. Don’t necessarily look for all of the new things that you can start doing, but instead look at the things that you are already inclined to do, and do them to the best of your ability.

Finally… Don’t Overthink It

This last part is the hardest for me. This is mainly because I overthink everything, and when I am presented with the idea that I should pay attention to more things in life, I start to try to overthink not only the big things that were already stressing me out, but then the little things as well! As you can imagine, this is not mentally healthy. Now, that’s my experience, but from my conversations with fellow students, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this one. The point of doing the little things well is to build up your ability to do the big things well. While the small things are important, they are still small, and if you try to treat every single endeavor in life like it is the most important thing, you will end up exhausted. One way to think of it is like all of the things that you do during your day are like assignments due during a school week. You should absolutely try your best to get an A in every assignment, but if you spent the same amount of time and mental energy on your 10 page final paper as you did your 3 paragraph discussion post, your grades wouldn’t look too great. When I first thought about what my delivery driver said to me, I thought that he meant that he was going to be delivering all of his packages the best way he could, and it would build up to something big one day. And maybe he meant it that way. Looking back on it now though, it wasn’t just about making sure that all of the packages got to their destinations. It was about going through his route quickly, yet safely. It was about making sure that none of the packages were damaged. And it was also about stopping for a moment to talk to a college senior who needed to hear a little bit of wisdom that came from life. Don’t be afraid to do the little things well. It makes a difference. Written by David Rethemeyer

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