Time to Sweat the Small Stuff

Making a confession here: I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Guilty.

You guys. I got this. IMAGE CREDIT: Walt Disney Pictures

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.

This is the dream right here. PHOTO CREDIT: Cheezburger.com

8 thoughts on “Time to Sweat the Small Stuff

  1. I totally needed to wake up to this post in my inbox. We often get so excited about innovation that we forget to build a strong foundation. Thank you for the gut check, it goes very well with my early morning coffee! Keep being awesome!

  2. Thanks, Eric. I’m just happy to know I’m not the only one that gets this way- here’s hoping we can both strengthen the core before we get fancy!

    Have a great Monday!

  3. This is JUST what I needed coming back from being a cluster facilitator on LeaderShape this past week, Amma. A post like this holds me accountable to “leading with integrity,” I think – just because change isn’t happening on a grand scale doesn’t mean it’s not happening, and being attentive to the “small stuff” is JUST as important as helping out with the big stuff! Thanks for inspiration this Monday morning 🙂

  4. Thank you, Cassidy, for affirming me and letting me know I’m not the only one that gets caught up in trying to create new shiny things- sometimes we need to polish what’s already here. Further, there’s no shame in choosing to polish what’s already there- the new and shiny will come when the time is right.

    Have a great Monday, my dear!

  5. Love this. Totally sending it to my department and the LinkedIn article!

    I have found this happening to me. I forget about the small stuff in an effort to work on the big flashy (or as you put it sexy) projects! Just like in capacity building (which is the topic of a post I am working on getting out today) – we have to be able to do the small stuff.

    In peace,
    RGB

  6. It’s a particularly important lesson for new professionals such as yourself to learn, but it’s easy to see that age and experience don’t make us immune to it. Learn the landscape and your role in it, do those core elements well, and then start sewing on the sequins. Thanks for the share, so happy you enjoyed it and I really hope your department sees something great in it!

  7. This is great. I often feel this way when I get stuck thinking about we get told we can’t do. This helps to remind me to “polish” what’s in front of me instead. Thank you!

  8. It is a great reframe for getting told no- it makes you think, “Well, what do I have that I can make amazing?” Working on making that reframe the standard until further notice 🙂

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