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Main Street: April 17, 2019

April 18, 2019 GMT

“While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.” — Matt Bevin

Noticing and appreciating the small things in life can make a big difference both at home and work. By paying attention to the little things, we get a much better understanding of how and why things work. Many times though we overlook the obvious.

I bet that you, like me, have experienced not really “seeing” something even though you have looked at it dozens or even hundreds of times. Let me give you a quick example. For many years, I would buy relatively inexpensive watches for less than $20 that would last a year or two because working around my garage, house or on various other projects, the battery would run down, the face crack or the band unravel.

About seven or eight years ago, my daughter and wife bought me a beautiful Seiko watch for around $200. After two years, the watch was still running. I wondered what sort of super battery the watch had.

Well, this went on for more than seven years. I thought maybe I had gotten one of those inventions you hear about in urban legends, where the manufacturer wasn’t supposed to release this miracle watch.

Then one day I looked a little bit closer. Now understand, I had looked at the face of the watch thousands of times — but in the process did not read the word “solar” on the watch face. How is it possible to look straight at something and not see it?

While this is not earth-shattering, it got me to thinking about all the little things we look at every day when it comes to our family and co-workers. Way too often we see little negative traits in others that “bug” us. Many times these are less about the other person, than us projecting on to them our own faults and frailties.

But what I want to emphasize here is the positive little things we don’t see, or if we do, we soon forget. As Matt Bevin tells us small thing can change a life. I’ve mentioned before that a high school teacher of mine, Dennis Miller, told a somewhat unconfident senior, “Don, you can do whatever you want in life.”

That little comment was a big first step in changing my life.

There are lots of ways to find and recognize positive things in others. Across the years I’ve been in hundreds of offices whether it was for a meeting, working out the details for a continuing education contract, an interview or just a chat.

I learned that what people display in their offices makes a strong statement about who they are. What pictures do they display, what about trophy’s or souvenirs, awards, and what books are on their shelves? Starting a conversation over what you see, not only demonstrates your interest in the other person, but opens up discussions you simply can’t otherwise have.

Never once has the other person said, “Oh it’s nothing, my time is precious so let’s just get down to business.”

Of course, you have to do this with tack, or it will seem manipulative. I have also been on the other side of the table, where someone walked into my office who wanted something or wanted to sell me something and totally ignored things in my office including awards, family pictures, and an impressive (if I may say so myself) set of original photos I had taken. Frankly, it was deflating.

Beyond looking at a person’s office paraphernalia, listen to what they are saying or don’t say.

One of the very best books ever written about how to effectively track both large and small things about those you want to build a relationship with is the classic book “How to Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive” by Harvey MacKay. When I was a director of business programming at the Center for Professional Development at Florida University, I had the privilege of hosting Mackay.

The only thing that is dated about his book is the idea of using index cards rather than your computer, tablet or phone to record information. Harvey, who owned a large envelope company in Minneapolis, required all of his salespeople to research and find out 66 items about each customer.

The complete list and a free worksheet can be download at bgainsurance.com/pdf/Annuities/Broker%20Sales%20Tools/Customer%20Profile-%20Mackay66.pdf or just Google the MacKay 66.

Even for non-sales people, it’s a great list for gathering information on those you want to develop a relationship with, although you certainly don’t need all 66 items.

Just a few of the “small things” include a person’s nickname; previous employment; professional accomplishments and awards; favorite restaurants and foods; names of their family members; hobbies and recreational activities; sports interests and teams.

Obviously, no one is going to sit down and fill out such a form, but over time by being in their office, having casual and business conversations you can learn these things. Here, though, is the key point: Write it down!

How many times do we learn something about another person and then forgot it in a day or so? By writing it down it allows us to strike up the perfect conversation at the right moment. It shows you really do value others and puts into practice Theodore Roosevelt’s wisdom “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”