At work, it’s the little things that matter, like industry & punctuality (1918)

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It’s the little things that count, after all

Perhaps one of the most difficult things we have to learn in our ventures into the big world is that it is not, after all, the spectacular things that really count but the little things, making up the big whole, that give to life its real meaning.

Now and then it is given to some of us to do something that is really heroic or brilliant of meteoric. But for the greater part, whatever our achievements may be, however large our service or our gain, it is the little things which have led up to the big things, which are really worthwhile.

Nine times out of ten

A very busy man who had found time in the midst of many duties to write a most valuable book was congratulated upon his achievement, and it was suggested that it was a very brilliant and wonderful feat.

But, with a characteristic gesture, he said: “It was nothing but beating on the typewriter every spare minute that did that job. There was nothing brilliant about it. It was a plain case of industry.”

And it is a plain case of industry nine times out of ten when any piece of work is done and done well.

Very often, when we look about us at those who have won success, we are prone to think of them as peculiarly blessed in some way, either with opportunity or endowment. But this is seldom true.

The other day, a certain girl was offered a salary of $200 a month which would require only about six hours’ work each day. This seemed a wonderful opportunity, and to those who did not understand, it appeared as if it had dropped from the sky, unsought and undeserved. For this girl is no more brilliant and no more fitted to the work than many others. But the difference was that the girl was in the channel which led to the opportunity.

>> Also see: Girls, don’t bewail your lot in life (1918)

For three years, she had made the most of small talents which were hers, she had been industrious, she had been willing, she had been full of enthusiasm. And so when the men at the head of the enterprise for which she was engaged, cast about for someone to fill the job, one of them remembered this girl.

“I believe she will do,” he said, “because she is faithful. She is always on the job. I have been in her office off and on for three years and I have noticed her industry and her punctuality.”

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“But would not the senior clerk of that department serve our interests better?” asked one of the members of the board. And the other man replied:

“No, I do not think so. She is bright and probably would do the work well, but she has such a high opinion of herself that no one on the board would have any rights at all. What we want is not brilliancy but industry, not someone to tell us what to do, but someone who will do what she is told.”

And so this girl who had “always been on the job” stepped from a salary of $100 a month to one of $50 a week, with less work and shorter hours, with larger opportunities.

It is the little things that count, if we choose to look upon industry and punctuality as little things.

It is doing one thing at a time and doing that thing to the very best of our ability; it is rising early and starting on time (if only the importance of that last might be fully impressed upon us all — starting on time); it is getting one job finished and out of the way before starting another; it is doing little things well.

Combined effort

The great artist who paints a picture which compels the admiration of the world does not do so with one sweep of the brush in one moment of inspiration. The great masterpiece is the product of thousands of strokes of the brush, of infinitesimal bits of pigment put on the canvas layer after layer, each done with consummate art. Every tiny bit of paint, every swift stroke does its tiny part toward what becomes, at last, a marvel of ages.

So must we work, stroke by stroke, a bit here and a bit there, until our masterpiece has been completed.

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