“You’re little but you’re big.”
Pretty Little Liars
“The human tendency to regard little things as important has produced very many great things.”
Georg C. Lichtenberg
Today is December 21st … the littlest day of the year – the winter solstice. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in terms of hours of daylight <solstice basically means “sun stands still”>.
On the winter solstice, everywhere south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours. Meanwhile, everywhere north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.
The good news?
Daylight gets bigger from here. From here on out the days gradually get longer and the nights shorter.
On the littlest day it seemed like a good time to talk about big things … and their relationship to little things.
Couple of quick thoughts.
Time. We bitch & moan about not having enough time to do everything we want to do. I could argue that most people actually get more real practical pragmatic shit done on the shortest daylight day of the year then the longest daylight day of the year.
More focus. Less distractions. More shit done. less daylight hours. Littler day. Bigger productivity.
Time is time … neither little nor big.
If you ever need an example of how littler can translate to bigger … well … the shortest day of the year is adman good place to start.
Little, or few, is more often than not a harbinger, forerunner or precursor to big.
From few, many. From one, multitudes.
This leads me to the heinous concept called ‘the big idea.’
I get tired of hearing about ‘big ideas.’
In fact … in my cynical mind … whenever I hear big idea I hear hyperbole, fantastical thinking & likelihood of big failure.
I perk up when I hear someone say … “you know … I have a little idea that I think can make a big impact.” That I can get onboard with.
Let me make my point by showing how few, let’s say 100, can be the beginning of something big.
100 Monkey Theory
In 1952, on the Japanese island of Koshima, a monkey named Imo washed a sweet potato before she ate it. She and her fellow, Macaca Fuscata monkeys were given sweet potatoes by the scientists who studied them. The monkeys like the taste of the potatoes, yet did not like the dirt. Imo taught her mother and the other monkeys she came into contact with and over time more and more monkeys were washing their potatoes.
Imo’s practice catches on.
Well, the interesting observation is that after a significant minority (let’s say 100 monkeys to use a number) of the monkeys were washing their potatoes, the scientists observed that very quickly after this, all the monkeys were washing their potatoes. Like a critical mass had been reached and now all the monkeys were able to access this knowledge somehow even if they did not come into contact with Imo and her friends. More interesting is that scientists observed that at the same time, on other islands monkeys were also washing their potatoes.
It appears that when 99 monkeys were washing potatoes and one more joined, a critical mass was achieved and this awareness was now available to everyone (please don’t get hung up on the exact 99 or 100 numbers).
This is known as the 100 Monkey Theory.
The foundation of the theory is when a certain critical number achieves an awareness of “something” <an attitude or behavior)> and that ‘something’ becomes accepted … it shifts into a norm, i.e., from the few, many.
I believe the truly stunning aspect of this theory is the ‘island to island’ aspect.
And these monkeys didn’t have internet.
Nor a classroom.
Nor any physical contact.
This theory suggests that, although the exact number may vary, when only a limited number of people know a new behavior it may subconsciously reside as the conscious property of the collective people. I am NOT suggesting some telepathic mumbo jumbo … but … I am suggesting that accepting new behavior <and attitudes I imagine> has a tipping point.
In addition … I do believe the ‘100th’ is reflective of my overall belief that great minds puzzling over similar situations are quite likely to have the same idea & thought <and inevitably the same innovation> wherever they may be and never having crossed paths with someone who is having the same idea at the same time>.
If you agree with that, then the 100 monkey theory is not as wacky or cerebral as it may seem at first blush.
You may not buy it.
You may not think people are related to monkeys.
You may think 100 isn’t enough.
But you should think about it.
You should think about how from little … something bigger arises.
And while I really do not want to get hung up on the actual numbers it is fascinating to think that there is a point at which if only one more person absorbs the new attitude and changes its behavior that somehow this awareness is picked up by almost everyone.
A book has been written on this theory, “The Hundredth Monkey,” by Ken Keyes Jr., I don’t suggest reading it because, well, the concept is pretty simple and you don’t need a book to explain it nor do I believe a lot of pages with graphs and explanations will convince you.
Here is my point on the littlest day of the year.
It can take a littler amount than you may think to create the change and behavior you desire. Add to that thought the importance of 1 – as in 99 to 100.
Whenever you doubt that 1 can make a difference just think about the 100 Monkey Theory.
I believe any one even remotely interested in creating cultural change should invest some time thinking about this theory. Instead of needing dollars to create change or wacky ideas to affect attitudes or investing energy trying to create “a wave of change” someone should focus on “the 100” or ‘the few.’
Think about creating change by offering relevant useful behavior information and focusing on the few.
Sure would make life a little simpler huh?
<note: some people, like me for an example, call this creating an influencer base to influence mass behavior>
If you focus on the littler stuff, the fewer, well … this means you can have a littler plan than normal.
I can hear the screams of disagreement from big idea people … “big ideas need to be nurtured and protected by big well thought out plans.”
The main issue with big plans and big planning is the fact that little things are always changing.
Even worse, these changing little things are oblivious to the neat orderly plan you had in place.
And even with all this change I imagine you have a choice … plow through the little changes swirling around with an unchanging plan … or watch the little changes <kind of like watching a double dutch jump rope> … and let your neat plan take on some less neat fluidity.
Little things can make big differences.
Little things can make big plans & ideas die.
And not everyone can see little shit when there is a big shiny looking shit dazzling you as if it were a star you shouldn’t take your eye off.
I would suggest that you know you are a big planner <as in one effective at creating Big plans> if all the little things that go wrong do not make your big plan go awry.
Little things can make big plans go awry.
Little things can make anything go awry.
On the other hand.
Little things can make big impacts.
Little things can become big things.
On this littlest day of the year think a little littler.
Take a little time and focus on little things which, if nurtured, can become big things.
And maybe think a little about the fact that there is not too little time but rather maybe we should seek to do bigger things in the little time we have.
And always remember … big shit is always a composite of a shitload of little things.
“That is the problem, we give larger space to small things. We give them power to break us in the tiniest form.”