ERROL CASTENS: Little differences matter

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

A whole bunch of my problems – and maybe yours, too – are tiny missteps multiplied by time, repetition or other factors. On the other hand, lots of successes are tiny efforts regularly repeated.
Out-in-left-field illustration: Keeping a car in its lane seems no big deal as long as you’re making tiny, even unconscious corrections every second or so. But start your car down a straight stretch and let go of the wheel, and the car will soon leave the road.
Little differences matter.
OK, nobody except a 16-year-old boy would try driving like that, so here are some more realistic examples:
* While I’m still overweight, I’m considerably less so than in the past. The 250 surplus pounds of fat I carried around at age 38 represented eating, on average, just 63 calories per day more than I burned. That’s the equivalent of two cups of coffee with a dab of half-and-half in each.
Little differences matter.
* If I’ve averaged saying one cross thing to my wife daily, by the time we reached our 20th anniversary last year I had hurt her feelings some 7,300 times. Two kind gestures a day would mean nearly 15,000 deposits in her love bank.
Little differences matter.
* Someone who spends just $1 a day – the price of a candy bar – more than he earns and puts the difference on credit cards at 24 percent interest will owe just over $400 at the end of a year. After 10 years, he’ll owe nearly $18,000.
Little differences matter.
* Let’s say a young man gives up his pack-a-day habit and invests the $5 he was spending daily on cigarettes. At 8 percent return on the investment – actually below long-term stock averages – he’ll have $230,000 after 30 years.
Little differences matter.
* An average-sized man who walks 30 minutes a day at three miles per hour will have covered more than 240 miles and burned 18 pounds of fat in a year.
Little differences matter.
* Sending a note of encouragement every week means that in a 50-year adulthood, one will have boosted the spirits of more than 2,600 people. For some of them, that message will be a life-changer.
Little differences matter.
* A lot of people want to read the Bible through, but like losing weight or saving money, it seems a daunting task. An average reader can actually complete it in about 72 hours. That’s 12 minutes a day or three sitcoms a week for a year.
Little differences matter.
* Even a rich man can’t buy a full-grown shade tree, but almost anyone can scratch an acorn into the ground and wait.
Little differences matter.
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at errol.castens@journalinc.com.