I had the privilege many years ago to interview motivational speaker Joel Weldon in Melbourne shortly after he won the USA National Speaker’s Association Top Speaker Award for the second year running. One of his keynote messages back then, and he has shared it a great deal since, is “Elephants Don’t Bite: It’s the Little Things That Get You.”
Joel shared about ‘Doing the Little Things that Get you Huge Results’.
For those who like to avoid detail and such things as routine maintenance Joel’s message might not sit so well. However, let me put it to you from the Bible and see how you deal with that.
The wisest man that ever lived wrote three books in his illustrious career, thousands of years ago. In his love song poem, King Solomon referred to little foxes that spoil the vine.
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:15
Note that Solomon wasn’t worried about a tsunami, or meteor from space. While those things are possible, the more practical thing to do is deal with the smaller problems we can manage. In the case of the vineyard the problem was small foxes that spoil the vine.
In Solomon’s Book of Proverbs he gives direct instruction about attending to things regularly, like routine maintenance.
“Be sure to know the state of your flocks, and pay close attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to every generation.” Proverbs 27:23,24
I wasn’t well trained to keep on top of things. The garden I dug as a child was soon overgrown. The strawberry plants I was given died before I planted them. The projects I started were left as piles of scraps my mother wanted me to put in the bin.
I was called to wash the car, clean my shoes and do other chores spasmodically but I never caught the value of doing routine chores happily. It was only in later life that I discovered, uncomfortably, the cost of not keeping on top of small things.
Decades ago in Australia there was a prime example of the need to keep an eye on things. A river system came under new management which could not see the value of paying a man to drive around the various resources each week. The corporation had to pay his wages and provide him a car, so the new management decided to get rid of this superfluous employee.
Within a year heavy rain flooded the river system causing various catchments to overflow. Ultimately it led to major flooding and the interstate highway was cut for days and a couple of towns inundated. What the sacked employee did by driving around the water system each week was keep an eye on levels and imbalances. He didn’t do much, but he was keeping watch and able to prompt action when needed. Without this man driving around the place things got out of balance and the rain event turned sour and expensive for the corporation. They lost much more in damages and penalties than a decade of that man’s wages.
So, you might think things are going fine and pay next to no attention to anything but the squeaky wheel. Yet the next ‘event’ might reveal the poor state of your property and your life.
It’s proverbial that a man or woman whose marriage or family has fallen apart will say, “I had no idea things were so bad”.
Many a business has gone under because management had their eye on part of the business, but missed key issues elsewhere.
Solomon might call those small problems ‘little foxes’. A fox doesn’t stand up and advertise his arrival, but is likely to sneak in at night or unobserved. The unobserved issues in your life and your family may be destroying the fruitfulness of your life.
When Tom Peters gave us his focus on ‘Management By Walking Around’ I immediately thought of Solomon’s advice thousands of years earlier, about knowing the state of your flocks. A shepherd would walk around his flock, not only looking outward for possible threats, like lions or bears, but checking each lamb and sheep, to note their condition and any signs of problems he might need to fix.
A shepherd would check the quality of the pasture and the water. He would consider the expectant ewes and even carry some sheep on his shoulder if that was needed.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11
You are very likely to be distracted by your big problems or by your successes and dreams. Routine maintenance, checking and double checking things, being around to keep an eye on the general feel of the place, and similar giving of yourself to your business, family, community and so on, is not as much fun as chasing a new venture.
Let me warn you, whether you want to believe me or not, there are little foxes right now looking for opportunity to spoil your life in some way. They may impact your inner self, or your marriage, or family, or business, but be sure there are small, seemingly insignificant things happening around you that could have serious negative effect.
Wonderfully, God knows about all the things that affect us, from the fires of hell, to the fiery darts of the enemy, through to the idle words we have spoken that cause a festering sore in those who heard them.
Take time to consider what looking for Little Foxes might mean in your life and your circumstances, but also take time to ask God to train you to do what Solomon’s wisdom advises, getting you into the routine of keeping an eye on things. And may God bless you such that your life is never spoiled by those Little Foxes.