In 1997, a man named Richard Carlson published a book with a brilliant title: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff.
The title so clearly captures the book’s theme that just hearing it or giving the book as a gift already sends the right message to the person in question. In the past 20 years, many people did: Carlson’s books have sold over 25 million times.
Of course, the advice in it wasn’t new. Just the packaging. Reminding himself of the same thing some 2,000 years before, Marcus Aurelius wrote in one of his Meditations:
“It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth, for then you won’t tire and give up, if you aren’t busying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed.”
Commenting on both authors, Ryan Holiday writes in The Daily Stoic:
“If you give things more time and energy than they deserve, they’re no longer lesser things. You’ve made them important by the life you’ve spent on them. And sadly, you’ve made the important things—your family, your health, your true commitments—less so as a result of what you’ve stolen from them.”
Yesterday, I woke up slowly. Had a calm start to my day. As time passed and I ran a few errands, I couldn’t help but compare: “Usually, I’d be working on X right now. After lunch, Y is the task I normally chase after.”
In the context of these quotes, suddenly, it all felt…small. Because that’s what we do. Day-to-day, we take care of small stuff. It is only in the long run that it adds up to big things.
Routines are good. They help us get these small things done. But it’s so easy to get caught up in them. To keep running in your hamster wheel, until you’ve completely forgotten why you started running in the first place.
Yesterday, I made time to remember why I’m running. I’m running so I can wake up without an alarm each day. I’m running so I can take off whenever I’m sick. I’m running so no boss can tell me what to do. And I’m running to write great stories.
Everything else? The tiny parts that break and go wrong each day? It’s all small stuff.
On a flight to publish his next book in 2006, Richard Carlson passed away from a pulmonary embolism. He was 45 years old.
We don’t get to choose our time. All we get to do is choose how to spend the time that’s given to us.
Carlson’s early death may feel ironic, but, most of all, it’s symbolic. Don’t fritter away life by getting dragged into the unimportant. Don’t spend time on things that don’t deserve it.
Pick your battles. Remember why you’re running. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
PS: I wrote a short, free summary of Richard’s book a while ago. You can read it here.
About No Sense Friday: Most people live for Friday. Relaxing on the weekend is fine, but we can’t just waste it away every time. That’s why Friday is the most important day to call out things that make no sense. Because in a way, the concept of ‘Friday’ itself makes no sense.
A good life is lived every day, not just once a week.
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