“Sometimes you make a very small move and then suddenly a giant door opens and a new exciting path appears before you and thus you understand how something such small carries a potential to create such big magic! Now, you know that small is big!” – Mehmet Murat Ildan
Today, we live in a world where everything seems to be larger than life. People don’t pay attention anymore to things that are trivial. Most people these days don’t say, “Thank you” anymore. If you do, the recipient won’t reply, “You’re welcome.”
But are there really small things? “Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things – a chance word, a tap on the shoulder, or a penny dropped on a news stand – I am tempted to think… there are no little things,” American author and advertising executive Bruce Barton said.
Indeed, there are no little things. “Symphonies begin with one note; fires with one flame; gardens with one flower; and masterpieces with one stroke,” Matshona Dhliwayo pointed out.
No one seems to pay attention to one – one against the many. But it was only one vote that gave the United States the English language instead of German in 1776. One hundred twenty-seven years earlier, in 1649, only one vote decided the execution of Charles I of England.
Such is the power of one! In 1800, one vote in the Electoral College gave Thomas Jefferson the Presidency over Aaron Burr. In 1868, only one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford D. Hayes the Presidency of the United States. In 1923, one vote made Adolf Hitler the leader of the Nazi Party.
Three simple words – “I love you” followed by “I do” – can start a lifetime commitment. Only one fling can destroy a relationship. “Men trip not on mountains; they stumble on stones,” so goes a Chinese saying.
Great men and women from the past – such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa – changed the course of history by performing a serious of little things.
The Holy Bible itself has given us an illustration that little things mean a lot. Goliath evoked terror among the Israelites. But David was never afraid of him. With his faith in God, he used a small stone to kill the Philistine giant.
“A kind act can be as powerful as a sword,” Rick Riordan, the widely-read author of The Battle of the Labyrinth, reminded. “As a mortal, I was never a great fighter or athlete or poet. I only made wine. The people in my village laughed at me. They said I would never amount to anything. Look at me now. Sometimes, small things can become very large indeed.”
In Mended: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Leaps of Faith, Anna White wrote” “This is the only advice I offer you. Pick the small thing, and carry it on. Let it change your life.” Richelle E. Goodrich, author of Making Wishes, has the same advice: “Do the small stuff. A consistent little will earn you a lot.”
I was reminded of a story that happened in the United States. A Kansas farmer returned from his farm one day and found a very small potato in his pocket. Jokingly, he handed it to his 12-year-old nephew who was visiting him. “Here,” he said, “plant that here on my farm and you can have all the potatoes you raise from it until you are 21 years old.”
The boy was intelligent. He cut the potato into as many pieces as it had “eyes” and planted the pieces behind the barn. That autumn, he dug up his potatoes, put them aside, and next spring cut his potatoes, and made another planting. His crop did very well from year to year, and his fourth year’s harvest was over one hundred bushels.
The farmer saw that the boy’s planting would soon cover all his land. So, he begged to be freed from his nasty offer. The nephew was very much willing since he had made quite a profit from that one small potato already.
Big things grow from small beginnings.
“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen,” reminds John Wooden, the American basketball player nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood.”
Laurie Beth Jones, author of The Power of Positive Prophecy, related her own story about a former boss who didn’t want her to spend so much time with clients. “Go after the big clients,” she was told. “Leave the peanuts to the others.”
But still she did what she wanted to do. “When the numbers were totaled,” she wrote, “my combination of small sales out-totaled his few big ones.”
Jones resigned from her job and started her own company. “Dinosaurs became extinct yet rabbits still abound,” she pointed out.
Now, let me tell you a story that was featured in 365 Moments to Cherish by Robert Strand:
At age 21, Jacques Lafitte, a son of a very poor carpenter from a small city, set out to seek his fortune and future life’s work in Paris. He had no references from influential people no brilliant academic career behind him, but he was young and full of hope.
With his usual thoroughness, he started looking for a job. Days became weeks, and still he had no job or income. But he kept at it. Nobody in Paris noticed this determined young man.
One morning, he applied at the office of a famous Swiss banker, Monsieur Perregaux. The banker asked him few questions about himself. Then, he slowly shook his head and said there would be no job offered at the moment.
Sadly, and more discouraged than ever, Jacques left the bank and walked slowly across the courtyard. As he did so, he paused, stopped, and picked something up. Then, he continued into the busy street, wondering if perhaps it wasn’t time to return home.
At about that moment, he was overtaken by a man who tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, sir,” he said, “I’m an employee at the bank. Monsieur Perregaux wishes to see you again.”
For the second time that morning, Jacques faced the famous banker. “Pardon me,” the banker said, “but I happened to be watching you as you crossed the courtyard of the bank. You stopped and picked something up. Would you mind telling me what it was?”
“Only this,” the young man replied, wonderingly, as he took a bright new straight pin from the underside of the lapel of his coat. “Aaah,” the banker exclaimed. “That changes everything. We always have room here for anyone who is careful about little things. You may start at once.”
Israel Ayivor, of The Great Hand Book of Quotes distinction, wrote: “Excellence is a habit acquired by continuous improvement on the little things you do with a firm belief that it’s going to be better than before!”