Don't sweat the small stuff. It's a well-known phrase I admit to using from time to time. Usually in a domestic context where it's admittedly not always exactly welcome.
I wasn't too sure where the phrase came from originally, but, in a bid to banish my ignorance, a few seconds on Google cleared it up for me.
The author and psychologist, Richard Carlson, who I learned sadly passed away at the age of just 45 in 2009, wrote a series of books on the theme. The original, "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" book, was on bestseller lists for 2 years, and from there the phrase entered general parlance.
While I've not read the books, I'm sure I get the gist. The phrase says it all. But how valid is the advice it contains?
Sure, I get the idea that it's not really worth worrying about a lot of stuff. Stuff that perhaps doesn't really matter if you just take a step back and 'get some perspective'.
Let's sum it up - don't worry, be happy. And if you're going to worry, at least only do so when it's about The Really Big Stuff. Right?
Wrong. While it might be valid in some contexts, sometimes, when you look more closely, it's the seemingly Small Stuff that does actually matter.
For example, I recently came across a study in the British Medical Journal that showed increasing the amount of hand washing had saved several thousands of lives. No brand new technology costing millions, or a breakthrough vaccine, or some other medical wonder drug. Just the simple act of hand washing had significantly cut the rates of superbug infections. In fact, infection rates were cut by not far off fifty percent.
Good job someone thought to Sweat The Small Stuff.
And it's not just the UK. Looks like the Small Stuff matters on the other side of the Atlantic too.
I'm currently reading - and learning a great deal from - Rudy Giuliani's book, Leadership. In the book he makes it clear that in his fight against crime, it was focusing on the Small Stuff that had a huge impact on crime rates in New York.
Some of his policies in this direction were based on the fact that it's a lot easier for someone to justify, however wrongly, breaking a window in a building that already has broken windows, than breaking a window in a building where all the windows are intact.
So he directed a concerted effort to take care of Small Stuff like removing graffiti, mending broken windows, and generally tidying up the city. This made it feel less like a place where crime had a helpful environment in which it could thrive.
As a result of Sweating The Small Stuff, crime rates - including Big Stuff like murder - plunged. And that's just one example of Small Stuff focus that he gives in the book where it had exponentially positive effects.
And in business? It's the Small Stuff that business owners should be sweating over. A lot.
As just one example, the simple colour of an order button can mean increasing - or decreasing - sales conversions by a fifth or more. Small Stuff with big impact.
Similarly, adding a trust badge to your website can increase sales by over 30%.
There are dozens of other such examples where Small Stuff focus means big profit increases. Easily overlooked though if you give in to the Don't Sweat The Small Stuff ideology.
Small Stuff, when looked at in more detail, can sometimes actually be Quite Big.
And it's not just online. Focusing in careful, minute detail on your offline sales process can have similarly big effects on the success, or otherwise, of your business.
For example, carefully scripting out conversations that sales staff might have with potential customers, based on months if not years of careful testing and fine tuning, can be the difference between a booming business, or one that's mediocre at best. A change of wording here and there ... Small Stuff indeed at face value ... can have big effects on results.
So next time you choose to heed Carlson's advice and not Sweat The Small Stuff, make sure it's not Big Stuff in Small Stuff disguise.