I started my life in the restaurant business a little unceremoniously. I started as a “salad girl” as one of my bosses likes to say. You would have to really know me to know how difficult that job was for me. My mind doesn’t think like a salad girl. I am so abstract and conceptual that every time the printer spit out another salad order all I could do was ponder about the product mix or how preparation of one salad overlaps with the others. A true salad girl sees the salad order and begins to make the salad. One of the values of our company is ‘Little things are important’. That is a great mantra and it shows up everywhere. One time I was hustling through my shift and ran low on a dressing. I went to the back for a refill and in the process made a mess. Not a big mess, just enough to be noticeable. I started to head back to the line and it struck me that the value of “little things” applied to cleaning up your messes. It didn’t matter that no one would know. It did matter that the important detail of keeping a clean kitchen by cleaning up messes I had made was important (even the little messes). So I stopped and cleaned my mess. Little things are important!
Life is like that. Life is lived by the little stuff! I used to think that only the big stuff mattered but now I am beginning to realize that life is measured by the combination of a lot of little things. Annual sales goals are reached one sale at a time. Strong marriages are made one date at a time. Integrity is forged one little decision at a time. Fortunes are made a dollar at a time. In the same vein, a lack of focus on the small stuff will kill you. Whoever said, “don’t sweat the small stuff” probably meant well but I respectfully disagree with their position. We need to pay more attention to the parts that make up the whole. Little things are important!
Many a man is duped by the notion that it is “quality” time with his family that matters. That is horse malarkey. The battle for the family is won by “quantity time”. My son and I are playing marbles lately. Last night we counted our marbles. He has 175 and I have 93. The sad part of that number is that we started with the same number of marbles. We have been playing keeper games since Thanksgiving and he has slowly but surely taken my marbles one to two at a time. And let the record show that I am trying to win. He is just better than me. But I am working on it. The point is this: marble kingdoms are collected one marble at a time. And the hearts of sons are won one marble game at a time. You don’t have to win all the marbles at once but just win little keeper games along the way. Little things are important!
I can still remember my last shift as a salad girl. Even though it was not my ideal position, I worked my butt off trying to at least getting competent. I studied the plate preps and worked through my propensity to over-think things and started just letting my hands do my thinking and I got better. My last shift was my best one. We were cranking like always and the salad printer was going crazy like always. But, I kept up. Every one of my dinner salads went out within the 2 minute spec. Every entree salad was portioned correctly and was made in a timely fashion. Every request for an extra salad dressing was filled. The expediting manager even came over and complemented me and said, “we are going to miss you around here I think you are getting it.” But the ultimate vendication came from a server as the shift came to an end when she exclaimed on her way back to dish, “you rocked tonight salad guy“. I knew then and there that I was ready for bigger and better things, because little things are important and I had mastered the little things. At least for a shift!