Making a confession here: I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I head into the busiest month of the spring semester, and see the end of my second academic year at Emmanuel drawing to a close, I’ll admit it: I’m getting antsy. I’m getting antsy because I see the end of the year report looming as a task that needs to be completed, and I’m worried there’s not enough change on it. So many things aren’t working optimally, so many students haven’t yet been reached, and I’m hopeful that if I have enough space, enough money, enough time, I can fix it all! From wanting to add new programs for commuter students, to hoping to create a semi-paperless system for…well, EVERYTHING in our office, my mind is constantly swirling with the possibilities. “What if” we didn’t have to do things this way?
And I have to say, I’m seeing now where that might be hurting me a little bit. I’m still attentive to students, still willing to take time to work with them and ensure that their needs are being met. I try to be sympathetic to the struggles they have with our present processes, and provide encouragement as they navigate them. But it helps no one for me to sit in these situations, convinced I’m better than them. They may not be the most modern, the most sexy, or the newest things on the block, but attitude matters. Time to own it: lately, my attitude regarding some of that stuff has sucked.
This weekend, Adrian Gonzalez posted a piece on LinkedIn entitled “Forget Innovation If You Can’t Execute the Small Stuff.” It was precisely what I needed to hear on the heels of my return from Baltimore, an experience that left me simultaneously energized for the promise of my own career, and dismayed that some of the ideas that I had learned of wouldn’t be seeing any action on my own campus. A telling piece for me, and something that snapped me to attention:
Sometimes we equate “the small stuff” with “the not important,” but in many cases, the small stuff is the foundation that everything else is built on. Like keeping your eye on the ball in baseball, or remembering to add yeast when making bread.
Even more bluntly, he closes with the simple but powerful question:
If you can’t execute the small stuff, then what makes you think you can innovate?
I can see my guilt in this. I know that I have let things on my to-do list lapse because I wasn’t excited about the process I would have to undergo to get it done. I’ve dismissed important projects in favor of dream ones because they were more exciting. But ultimately, Gonzalez is right: what’s the point of creating something new and sexy, if the foundational pieces aren’t working as they should?
This is a call to action for myself, that I’m making public to a community that has previously supported me: Slow down. Focus. Practice. Pay your proverbial dues. Get good at what’s on your plate right now, before going back for seconds or paying the upcharge for the premium sides. One day, and it will be soon, I’ll be in the position to make those big sexy changes that I know could make my office, department, and campus an easier place to exist. But I have to stick the landings in the compulsory routines before I can get fancy with the optional routines. Is the latter more fun? Well, sure. But those routines look like crap if the fundamentals aren’t there. And so…let the conditioning begin.