Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Make the little things count”.
An old adage
Almost everyone has heard it: “It’s the little things that count”. I like to tell my kids these saying don’t just fall out of the sky, they develop over time for a reason, and this one is no different. This quote originated in the 20th century (believe it or not) and is attributed to a system’s programmer at the RAND corporation, Cliff Shaw. What he actually said was: “It’s the little things that count, hundreds of them”.
And it’s no wonder, really
It’s not surprising that the phrase was coined by an early programmer. Anyone who has done any coding will know that the smallest mistake can make a program crash. But the truth of it has been around for a lot longer, and there are a lot of little sayings that relate to it. “Watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves” (Ben Franklin) for example; and “The devil is in the details” (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche).
But it’s been true forever
As far back as time itself, big things are made up of all the little things. Look around, a huge brick mansion is made with thousands of small bricks, huge pyramids are constructed out of thousands of smaller (OK, they are still big though) stones. And don’t forget your body is made up of billions of cells, which in turn are made up of thousands of atoms. It’s kind of mind blowing if you think of it.
It’s not just material things
Those little things matter in a lot of ways. Ways that affect you every day, but you maybe don’t notice anymore. Do you go to the same establishment frequently? Does it make you smile when the people working there recognize you and greet you? A little thing that makes a big difference! One of my favorite little features that makes a big difference in the car is the short flash mode for turn signals so you don’t have to remember to turn them off after changing lanes. Now if I can just remember to turn them ON to change lanes…
If you pay attention
Today, take some time to notice all those little things that happen without you really noticing. Pay attention to all the things people do, or little additional features in your favorite products that just make your life easier. I think you’ll be surprised at how many little things you notice that really matter.
That great things are built out of a lot of little things. If you are as old as I am, then even sitting here today in front of a computer, using a word processor and posting to the internet is the result of a million little things to get us here. I was born in 1960. We hadn’t yet been to the moon, or cooked food in a microwave, or talked on a phone that wasn’t attached to the system with wires or a myriad of other things.
And it didn’t happen all at once
Where we are today is the product of millions of experiments, development, and improvement over time. We all KNOW that, but rarely think of it in those terms. This keyboard I type on started its life as typesetting in a printing press, then moved on to a manual typewriter, then an electric typewriter (I loved the ones that would “backspace” and erase mistakes without white out) and now finally a keyboard for a computer. Each small improvement builds onto earlier improvements over time.
And neither did you
You didn’t happen all at once either. And I’m not just talking about being formed and born. I mean SINCE birth. The you that exists today is the result of countless “little things” that have grown and shaped you over time. It is the culmination of all those little things that make you…well, you (as opposed to, say, me). And if you are still breathing, you are not done.
But you know what?
All of those things I’ve written to this point are great but only serve to highlight the importance of the main point of this topic which is not “Pay attention to and notice all the small important things around you” but is instead “MAKE the little things count”. An important distinction, but without the context of the importance it’s just a cute saying.
Make them count? We are 800 words into this short essay, and I’ve spent them telling you that those small things DO count, so why do we have to make them count? I’m SO confused! Don’t fret, I’ll explain.
Up to this point
Up to now I’ve been talking about how the little things that happen to you are important so that you’ll believe this next part. And here it is: All the little things you do for someone else are just as important to them. And they remember them, just like you do. For example, are you recognized at an establishment you frequent and go there instead of somewhere else because of it? You remember. They will too.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (Hmmm…vinyl records…talk about incremental improvements over time!), the entertainment industry is built on relationships. I won’t say it is more important than talent (although sometimes I believe it is) but I can firmly say it is equally important. Making those small things count is what builds and strengthens those relationships. And if you are not intentional about them, not MAKING them count, you could miss out on great things.
Why does it matter?
As a performer of any kind, VO, stage actor, screen actor…any of them…you are in a freelance industry where the commodity you are selling is YOU. Your goal is to book jobs, and it is other people who make the decisions who to book. What you want, no…what you NEED…as a performer is for people to remember you and want to work with you when they have a role to cast.
OK, so how do you make small things count?
Well, a good question and maybe MAKING small things count is a bit misleading. They do count, already…but only if you DO them. What follows, in no particular order, is a PARTIAL list of things to do to stand out to people. With the hope of building relationships and out of that HOPEFULLY booking work. Remember: The motivation has to be building relationships not booking work. Booking work is a by-product of relationship building.
Some small things to always do
Again, these are not in order of any importance (I’d say they are equally important, really) and it is not an exhaustive list but should serve to give you an idea what I am talking about:
Remember names: You like it when people use your name, so make a habit of remembering people’s names (I am absolutely abysmal at this myself and am working on it, which is probably why it is the first one on the list).
Be on time: You want to get noticed on a production? Be the person who is always 15 minutes early for your call time.
Be prepared: Showing up 15 minutes early won’t help you if you haven’t spent time preparing for the job. Memorize lines, rehearse them ahead of time…whatever the job requires.
Be pleasant: If you are unpleasant, they’ll remember you too…but for the wrong thing.
Be helpful: As long as it doesn’t go against union rules (assuming it is a union job) be seen as that “team player” who is always willing to help.
Be encouraging: Especially to new or younger folks and particularly to traditionally “forgotten” folks like the BG actors. Remember to praise publicly but admonish (if you are in a position to do so) privately.
Friendly and reliable
At the end of the day most of this is talking about being intentional about making sure you are friendly and reliable. You want to be the person people enjoy working with AND who people know they can rely on. Like becoming you, it is not going affect your career overnight but over time you’re going to wind up being the first one they call when they are trying to fill a role. So remember: Make the little things count!
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