I enjoy listening to a sports radio talk show called “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd. I generally like Cowherd’s takes on a variety of sports topics, so I try to listen often. I also enjoy many of the guests he has on his show.

One of his regular weekly guests during the football season is former NFL quarterback, Trent Dilfer. I have really enjoyed listening to Dilfer talk about games and players because I learn something every time I hear him.

A couple of months ago, Dilfer said something that really struck me. I had heard him say it once before a long time ago, and I believe I heard someone else say the same thing some time ago, too. Each time I have heard it, it hit me that I have said a variation of this statement in a variety of areas of my life for years.

The statement Dilfer made was this: “How you do the little things is how you do everything.”

What a powerful statement! I’m not sure who first said it, but upon doing a Google search, I found a similar quote attributed to a Martha Beck – “The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” I like that one, too.

The Little Things are Huge

However, I like Dilfer’s quote a bit more for a very important reason. For all my years teaching and coaching, I would say something with a similar message to my students and athletes. My statement was simply this — “The little things are huge.”

My point was that the things that we may look at as small and inconsequential and not very important are more often than not gigantic when it comes to setting us up for success or failure. If we don’t take care of the minute details, then the major ones will not work out for us the way we want them to.

When I think of this concept, the example from my career that always pops into my head is from basketball. When I would teach a move near the basket called a “Drop Step,” I would show my players the difference that about six to twelve inches on the floor where they are standing can make in their success. I told them their foot closest to the baseline needed to be “above the block” (the little box on the free throw lane line that is closest to the baseline).

I would then demonstrate the move from there with it culminating in a successful shot. I would then show them what would happen if they stood “on the block” or “below the block.” With each subsequent six-inch step closer to the baseline, the chances for the move to be successful were diminished greatly because the move took them under the basket where they would really struggle to get any angle to shoot the ball into the hoop.

I would then say, “THE LITTLE THINGS ARE HUGE!”

Behaviors, Habits, & Skills

But I really love the statement that Trent Dilfer made even more because it is focused on our behaviors, habits, and skills — “How You Do the Little Things is How You Do Everything!”

We all have certain things we do in our lives that demand a certain level of attention and a certain type of process. Many of them are important to our success in whatever it is that we are engaged in and trying to perform. There will be many steps in the process to successfully achieve that thing that we are trying to accomplish. If we do not focus our attention on the “little” things in the process as much as we focus on the “big” things, the big things won’t happen the way we want them to happen. Our chances for success will be diminished.

I am coaching 8th grade boys’ basketball right now. I have a wide variety of ability levels from kids who have played a lot and have decent skills to kids who have never played basketball before. The difference in skill levels is immense. Yet there is one common thread among all of them — the need to focus on doing the little things right in order to learn, improve, and develop.

For most of them, though, there is also another common thread — the lack of focus on doing the things that in their minds are not very important that, ultimately, are more important than anything else. I’m talking, of course, about focusing on their fundamentals.

All About the Fundamentals

These players often skip over the basics of learning how to handle, pass, and shoot the ball and then work on those skills with focus on a daily basis. They are constantly looking to cut corners and move on to the next thing, the cool thing, the thing they see their NBA heroes do that they are nowhere near ready to start doing because they have not mastered the “little things” — the fundamentals they so desperately need.

Those who have grasped the importance of learning and mastering the fundamentals and who then go out and work on them consistently are the ones who see positive growth and development. While it can be a gradual thing for some, for many, once they start to master certain fundamentals, the learning curve and success curve are high.

Unfortunately, far too many don’t get to this point. In fact, the irony is that it is the more skilled players who often fail in this regard compared to the less skilled players. The players with more skills often are just more athletic than the others, and their athleticism has allowed them to have some success over those who are less athletic. Therefore, they get a false sense of security that what they are doing is good and is working, so they don’t really have to work on the fundamentals any more. They then cut corners on what they should be doing, thereby stunting their progress and growth.

The problem, of course, is that no matter what they are endeavoring to do, no matter what arena they are striving for success in, EVERYONE needs to work on the fundamentals for their entire careers and lives. We don’t see the countless hours that professional players put into their craft, working on their fundamentals and honing their craft. We just see the amazing skills and talents in their games. But those skills and talents are the results of all those hours of work on “the little things” that they put in to becoming the best they could become.

The great ones truly understand the idea that “how you do the little things is how you do everything,” and they devote a lot of time to working very hard on “the little things.”

No matter what walk of life you are in, no matter what you are seeking to become the best you’re capable of becoming in, focus on doing all the little things necessary for your success and doing them to the best of your capabilities. Your discipline in doing so and your attention to detail on the finer points of what need to be done will help lead you to the success you seek.