Is the small stuff important?

Part of the New Guinea Commerce Winners Don’t Cheat Series.

By Sean Jacobs

Young people will often hear conflicting advice about whether the ‘small stuff’ is important. As a schoolboy, for example, I was encouraged to think about the ‘big picture’. But I also recall being told I should focus on the ‘day to day’ and ‘not get too carried away’ with the larger elements beyond my immediate control. This applied to everything from personal finance tips like saving through to advice on how to advance professionally.

Without approaching these two bits of advice with some experience, however, they can be intensely confusing. What is the ‘small stuff’? We usually take it to mean the tiny inconsequential matters chewing up our time at the expense of focusing on big deliverables. The financial advice guru Ramit Sethi provides a great example about sweating the small things when trying to save money:

It’s easy to talk about cutting back on lattes, disabling the oven light to save $0.03 over 2 years, and never ordering appetizers. Great! You’ll save $11,000 in 30 years and hate yourself every day of your life.

None of us wants to live like a penny pincher. Do you really want to know how to make your own laundry detergent and save $0.32/year? Who wants to live like that?

It’s much easier, he says, investing early, focusing on getting a dream job, starting a side business or optimising your credit. In other words moving away from the ‘small stuff’ and focusing on ‘big wins’.

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