I'm well aware of Richard Carlson's book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and it's all Small Stuff. It's an inspirational book, and it became one of the fastest-selling books of all time. It was published in 135 countries, and it spent over 101 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. I certainly understand the concept on an emotional level, but I do not understand it on a professional level.
Don't get me wrong; I'd love the luxury of not sweating the small stuff. It would make business life so much easier because there's a long list of small stuff that we encounter every day. Imagine if you never had to worry about things like this:
- Being on time... It takes planning to be on time. Wouldn't it be great to be on time when it is convenient for you? When you finally do show up, and you are facing the person who made sacrifices to be on time, relax. Sometimes that person might be a little angry, and sometimes not, but you can just tell them this: "Sorry I'm late. I don't sweat the small stuff."
- Finishing a project on schedule... It takes organization to finish a project on time. Wouldn't it be great to complete your work on schedule - when it's convenient for you? Why not just get close to finishing on time? Perhaps your client has been carefully coordinating multiple project schedules that involve your project, and your client expects you to finish this project on time. When you do finally complete your project, you can just say this: "Sorry I finished the project late. I just don't sweat the small stuff."
- Being thorough... It takes discipline to truly be thorough. Wouldn't it be great to be "kind of" thorough? When you turn in a project, you can just place this disclaimer at the beginning and the end of the assignment: "I don't sweat the small stuff."
Shall I go on? From the movie "Scent of a Woman," I'd like to borrow the words of Al Pacino: "I'm just gettin' warmed up!" Almost everything that we come across can either be categorized as small stuff, or layers of small stuff. How do we sift through all of the things in our lives, and then decide what should be considered "small stuff?" What a daunting task that would be, to say the least. The list may be endless, but it doesn't have to be. The trick is to remove the concept of choice because sweating the small stuff isn't a choice.
- Want to be on time? It's not a choice, and it doesn't take luck; it takes careful sweating of the small stuff, and the discipline to make being on time essential.
- Want to finish a project on schedule? It's not a choice, and it doesn't take luck; it takes meticulous sweating of the small stuff, and the discipline to complete each task as scheduled.
- Want to be thorough? It's not a choice, and it doesn't take luck; it takes discipline to sweat the small stuff, and the self-control to truly be thorough.
On a personal and emotional level, I can see that there may be a time and place for not sweating the small stuff. But in business, it's a flawed principal. As a professional speaker, I come from an industry that requires me to be in a certain town, on a certain day, at a certain time, with certain materials, dressed a certain way, with a certain presentation, supported by certain materials, delivered in a certain manner... and those are the easy days.
I'm encouraging you to take pride in the work you do, and that work is typically dependent on obsessing and conquering the small stuff. Anyone can sweat the big stuff: It takes a lot more to sweat the small stuff. All of the small stuff is important; it isn't up to you to determine what small stuff to dismiss. My words of advice are this: When it comes to your professional life, please sweat all of the small stuff.