I follow author Tim Ferris (it’s a wild ride) and this post was inspired by one of his. I happen to agree with him that you can tell a lot about people by how they do the small things. One of my personal observations: how you maintain your car is how you take care of almost everything in your life. If your car gets regular maintenance and is kept clean (no matter how old it is), you’re probably the kind of person who takes care of all of the things you own. You can’t convince me, however, that you’re a detail-oriented, organized person if your car is a wreck (metaphorically or literally.)
Small details matter – and they’re a clue to how you do the big things. If you calculate a tip carefully after a meal out and insist that everyone pay their fair share of the bill down to the penny, you’re probably going to be a stickler in a business partnership. If you don’t bother to do the math and just throw down a couple of loose bills, that’s also a clue to how you handle money. Show me a woman with a single rose in a crystal vase on her desk, and I’ll show you someone who cares about esthetics everywhere. I wouldn’t take her to a grimy dive on a date, no matter how good the food is. You get the point; like it or not, your character is showing in a hundred ways every day.
Back to Tim Ferris’ post: If you’re a baby boomer like me, you may remember the story about David Lee Roth (of Van Halen fame) having a clause in his concert contracts about brown M&Ms. It sounded insane. The clause stated that “a bowl of M&M’s has to be provided backstage, with every single brown candy removed, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation to the band.” Egomaniacal star obsessed with his own fame? Not according to his explanation in his memoir “Crazy from the Heat.” Van Halen often traveled to small markets where no one had ever handled a show with as much equipment and as many technical requirements as theirs. Roth says that if he went backstage and saw brown M&Ms in the bowl, he’d order a line by line check of the entire production plan. They’d almost always find some oversight or error in planning that could have ruined the show – or worse. (The recent collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair killed seven and wounded over 40 people.)
David Lee Roth understood what most of us don’t take the time to process: that how you do all the small things gives us a clue as to how you do the big things. Like show up when you’re needed. Take care of what matters. Stand by your friends. Pay back your debts. Pay attention to details.
The next time you’re tempted to tell a friend, a family member, or your spouse that they’re overreacting to how you handled some minor detail, stop and think. Is how I do this how I do everything? And what does that say about me?
Now apply that to your job search. When you meet with a prospective employer, are you organized, on time and prepared? If not, how will you convince her that you will be when it counts?