The longer the journey, the more and more the little things matter. Let’s consider a spaceship on route to a distant planet, 1 million miles away. The ship gets knocked off course by the slightest 0.001 degree. This ship will miss its mark by thousands of miles. It is vital to recognize the importance of the task and the distance which needs to be traveled.
The Millenium Falcon
If we are setting our sights on distant pursuits, things such as raising children, building a career, pursuing a Ph.D., or writing a book, then we need to recognize the importance of the little things. We don’t want to bump our spaceships off course because it’s a pain to keep putting them back on track.
It’s okay to sluff off these little things when you are doing the dishes or taking out the trash or driving to work. Our brain is meant to think in two modes, fast and slow. Our fast mode is doing things automatically, you are not even aware of the process, and doing things enough times makes them automatic. Slow thinking is processed based and you are aware of the process, something like how a computer runs things step by step. Our brain is a limited resource and we can choose what to spend its energy on. Ironically, thinking slowly is a lot more tiring for your brain than thinking fast. Thinking slow allows us to pay attention to the little things and make sure they are in place.
If we can increase our capacity to detect the little things and dedicate our thinking to the important tasks which require those little things to be in perfect order we have an excellent chance at doing things well. Consider a professional who takes in information at a rate of 8 – 10 seconds. Someone else in the same profession may take 10 – 12 seconds to process the same information. Let’s also assume they both spend the same amount of time working over the course of the next 10 years – 40 hours a week, which equals roughly 20,000 hours. Professional A will have taken in around 8,320,000 pieces of information, professional B will have taken in about 6,800,000 pieces of information. It may be only a 2 second difference in processing speed, but it equals almost two years of information.
Now apply this idea to something like reading to your children. If you dedicate 5 minutes per night to read to your children by the time they are 10 you will have read to them for roughly 13 days. If you dedicate 20 minutes per night you will have read to them for almost 51 days. Which child would you suppose has a greater imagination? I’m not sure if we can be 100% certain, but my best bet would be on the later.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 understand.
So I am encouraging you to dedicate extra brain power, extra vigilance and care to those tasks which matter so much to us and are going to take a long, long time.