Just one small thing

21 Jun

At this week’s meeting of my Rotary club we had in attendance our scholarship recipients and their parents. Each year, my club awards several $1,000, and one $1,500, college scholarships. The applicants, who are high school seniors, submit an application which comes with very detailed guidelines about how to prepare the application and essay.

This year, all of the applications were particularly strong. Each one of the applicants was quite impressive, if not outstanding, in their high school and young life involvements and accomplishments. As I worked to rank the applicants, one aspect of one part of their essays became a differentiating factor; one element, glossed over or not, meant the difference between winning and losing. After reviewing good grades, impressive involvement in activities and work, and quality essays, one detail stood out to made the difference.

In our Kumdo training at my martial arts school, we teach (as I was taught) that every small detail is important and that any small detail can be critical. In a Kumdo match, if armor fails —  becomes untied — you lose; in a real battle, you would die. Thus, one can understand the great attention given to properly tying one’s armor. In the Way of the Sword, any small detail missed, any flaw, could mean death.

Ideally, this attention to detail carries over to everyday life. However, there is no miraculous, overnight life change that occurs. In fact, any significant change may take what seems to be (or may actually be) a lifetime. Over time, Kumdo training can help a practitioner move more consistently in the direction of paying attention to more things, hopefully things that matter. The continual emphasis, in training, on focus, attention to detail, and improvement slowly works its way into one’s being the same way a slow, regular dripping of water can shape a stone.

This all gets me thinking about what, perhaps small, detail in my life is limiting me in some way? What element am I neglecting or ignoring that is causing me, in essence, a death or, perhaps, depriving me of life? What detail am I ignoring, avoiding or just plain messing up that is most regularly or significantly affecting my life, my work or my relationships? Why aren’t I paying attention to that? What one, small thing is my One Big Thing? Even if it’s not my one big thing, what detail or element can I attend to that is going to help me or make a difference? Similar to the scholarship applicants, what part of my daily essay am I glossing over? What part of my armor always seems to become untied?

Even if I’m not that insightful, I’ll at least be thinking about what thing I can pay attention to today that will simply make a difference. And then I’ll do it.

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