In 1987 American Airlines removed one olive from the salad of every first class passenger’s meal. The result? The airlines saved $40,000 that year.
During migration geese can fly up to 16 hours a day at an average speed of 40 mph. They fly in a “V” formation where the bird flies slightly above the bird in front of it. The result? In one study, the slight wind break from the bird in front of the V increases a formations distance by up to 70%.
The point of these fun facts? Small changes can produce big results. I am not talking about little things like making your bed every morning. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Little things make big things happen.” World-class athletes live by that mantra every day. They know that putting the sweat in behind the scenes can lead to clutch performances in the limelight. They know that you play like you practice.
World-class businesses understand this principle. Why did American Airlines remove the olive? Because $40,000 is a lot of money for a silly olive in my salad. Saving that money in olives meant they could shift it to something useful.
The same is true for all of us. The seemingly mundane choices we make each day determine our path, and that path determines our success or our failure. Want to make a difference in the world? Handle the little things with integrity. Want to make a difference in your relationship? Focus on the little things that make it work.
If that last part sounds familiar, it’s probably because Jesus said the same thing more than 2,000 years ago. In Luke 16:10, after telling His disciples a parable about a shrewd business manager, Jesus said, “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Of course the opposite is also true: If you can’t trust someone with the little things, you’ll never trust them with anything bigger.
Your character really isn’t formed by the big events in your life. Instead, who you are is ultimately determined by the smaller choices you make each day. When you choose to do what’s right every chance you get, you’re more likely to stick to your principles when the pressure’s really on. On the flip side, if you let the small things slide, you’ll follow the path of least resistance - even if that means compromising your core values.
Of course, the little things can be easy to miss. After all, they’re little. And in a fast-paced, chaotic culture, shiny fast-moving squirrels often distract us from the details that really count. You’ve got to be intentional when you look for the little things. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth the extra effort.