The Wisdom of Brown M&M’s

You have probably heard the old saying that “the devil is in the details.” Well I don’t know exactly where the devil might be at any given time but he’s not in the details. What’s in the details is success. Little things matter, often they matter a lot. 

 

Van Halen was the first big name band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. Instead of Detroit Michigan for instance they would do a concert in Lansing or Grand Rapids. They would pull up to the venue with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard for that kind of arena was three trucks, max. 

 

Their show was a huge production and their standard contract included a rider with a ton of technical specifications, some were meant to improve the production but many were meant to provide a safe environment for both the band and the audience. 

 

The rider included a clause that required bowls of M&M’s to be placed in the band’s dressing room and backstage. Also buried deep inside the rider was this item: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

 

Now the band took a lot of heat for that requirement and as the story goes David Lee Roth would go ballistic upon seeing a brown M&M in the bowl. It made the whole band seem like a bunch of spoiled prima-donnas. 

 

But there was method to their apparent madness. 

 

With literally thousands of technical specifications in their rider they wanted a quick way of determining whether or not the venue had throughly read and complied with the requirements for a safe and successful show. 

 

When the band would walk backstage or into their dressing room and see brown M&M’s, they knew that details had been missed. They knew that if one detail had been missed then it was very likely that other details had been missed too and some of those details could get someone seriously injured or even killed.

 

Every time they saw brown M&M’s they went through the rider with the venue in great detail and always found things that were missed. When they didn’t see brown M&M’s they were able to do a much briefer review of the rider and literally never saw anything else missed.

 

This rock and roll group, notorious for excessive partying and “other” stuff besides their music developed a fool proof way of determining whether or not the venue was paying attention to the little things. 

 

Val Halen knew that the little things make a big difference. They knew that small problems have a way of becoming bigger. They knew that success was in the details. 

 

How about you? Do you settle for “close enough” when excellent is within reach? Does the lazy part of you (yes, almost all of us have a lazy part) “settle” for good enough because great seems like a little too much work? 

 

The most successful people know that either you pay attention to the details now or you will absolutely pay the consequences later. 


What are you paying today?

The Trouble With Trifles

There is a great book written by Richard Carlson entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” I knew the book was spot on before I even opened it because the second part of the title is “and it’s all small stuff.” 

 

My sentiments exactly!

 

Anger, especially anger that comes from small stuff, is a terrible master and if you let yours control any part of your life you will be worse off because of it. If you allow “little things” to bother you or add any amount of stress to your life then you are limiting your potential. 

 

My dad used to be a worrier; he allowed most everything, even the very trivial stuff, to bug him. It didn’t take much to cause him worry and it took even less to get his hackles up. Then he heard something far from trivial from his doctor. He heard he needed a heart transplant. 

 

Once he received his new heart he was like a new man. Not only was he physically better but he no longer sweat the small stuff and he truly believed it was all small stuff. 

 

After living decades with his still like new heart he would tell you that all it takes for the day to be great is to wake up. To be given a new day. To have one more chance to enjoy life, that’s all that truly matters. 

 

So before you get yourself worked up, before you add an ounce of stress to your life, before you care about anything, ask yourself if it will matter in 10 years. Ask if it will matter in 10 months, 10 weeks or even in 10 minutes. 

 

If you’re like most people you will discover that it won’t. 

 

A mentor of mine once told me to never underestimate the absolute unimportance of almost everything I did. At first I was offended and then I asked myself those questions. When I was honest with myself I was shocked to discover that most of what I did wouldn’t matter for long. Some of it might matter in 10 minutes, some for 10 weeks but hardly anything was going to matter in even a year much less 10 years down the road. 

 

It was a sobering realization. It’s humbling to realize that most of what you do, most of what you stress over, most of what you’ve convinced yourself is important really doesn’t matter. But it was also a freeing realization. It allowed me to “let go” of the little things that had imprisoned my joy of life. 

 

A trifle is defined as a thing of little value or importance. The trouble with trifles is that we give them undue importance and that allows them to block us from the truly important things that we could be thinking about, we could be talking about or we could actually be doing.

 

The most successful people and the most effective leaders don’t fuss over the trifle stuff. They focus on what matters today and what will still matter tomorrow and for many tomorrows to come. 

 

If you have trouble with trifles then decide today that you won’t be fooled any longer, decide today to focus on what truly matters.