It really is the little things that matter most

Yep. The stuff that seems silly. The stuff that is beneath you. The afterthoughts. The stuff that gets left out when you are in a rush, when you are on a mission to meet a deadline, when your work is more important than other peoples’ work.
St Paul's Cathedral Pinnacle and London Eye. Pináculo de la Catedral de San Pablo y London Eye.
photo credit: J A Alcaide
I was in London staying with a friend this summer (thanks M).  I had several business meetings lined up with people who could help me advance.  I had lunches and dinners arranged with old friends from the time I had lived in London.  It was a week of English sunshine.  All the big things were aligned in the right direction.
On the Tuesday morning, I woke, dressed and had some breakfast.  I took the stairs down to the street and walked towards the Bond St tube station.

On the way I stopped to buy a drink and 2 newspapers (FT and Telegraph) in a little newsagent.  The guy behind the till told me that the cost was 4 pounds and 15 pence.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out 4 pound coins.  I looked at my hand and paused.   I thought “I will have to take out my wallet and pay with a 10 pound note.”

In the moment of pause, a black guy who was standing behind me reached over and put 15 pence in my hand and said “have a good day”.  The shopkeeper took the 4.15 and I walked out of the shop with my papers and drink.

This stranger’s act of generosity, completely unexpected generosity, left me all day thinking “but why? Why did he do it?” and a sense of gratitude.  These 15 pence left me feeling more happy that week than any of the meetings with important people, all the planned social activity.  I am writing about it here months later, and I can’t tell you too many specifics of the rest of my meetings during that week.  (Day out at the Polo was fun; and the Queens club tennis.) 

I used to think that in a long term relationship, it was more important that two people share the same long term goals and less important the little day to day bits and pieces, forms of communication, styles of interaction.  I now think that for happiness it is the opposite.  Joy is in the little things.

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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