Success is often reached through the little stuff. When Pat Riley coached the Los
Angeles Lakers from 1982 to 1990, the team won four NBA championships. In taking over the
New York Knicks in 1991, Riley inherited a team with a losing record. But the Knicks
seemed able to play above their abilities and even gave the eventual champions, the
Chicago Bulls, their hardest competition in the play-offs.
How does Riley do it? He says his talent lies in attention to detail. For example,
every NBA team studies videotapes and compiles statistics to evaluate players' game
performances. But Riley's use of these tools is more comprehensive than that of his
rivals. "We measure areas of performance that are often ignored: jumping in pursuit
of every rebound even if you don't get it, swatting at every pass, diving for loose balls,
letting someone smash into you in order to draw a foul."
After each game, these "effort" statistics are punched into a computer.
"Effort," Riley explains, "is what ultimately separates journeyman players
from impact players. Knowing how well a player executes all these little things is the key
to unlocking career-best performances."
Robert McGarvey, Reader's Digest, Little Things Do Mean
The mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, was addressing the final breakfast meeting of
NAE's Federal Seminar for Christian collegians. Her comments were forceful and on target.
Suddenly she shifted gears: "How many Polish people..." she began. For asplit
second my mind raced. She wouldn't be about to tell an ethnic joke, would she? Of course
not; she's not that kind of person, and besides, she's too intelligent to destroy her
career with that kind of humor. Then I heard her complete the question: "How many
Polish people does it take to turn the world around?" Pause. "One, if his name
is Lech Walesa." Ahhh!
What a beautiful twist. The frequently maligned Polish people got a magnificent
compliment. One of their shipyard workers becomes an independent trade union leader whose
courage and humble effectiveness results in his country's first free election in forty
years and the installation of the first eastern bloc non-communist prime minister in
decades. That one man helped change the course of Eastern European history.
But let's move back to American politics. In the summer of 1983, a teenager by the name
of Lisa Bender of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, struck a giant blow for the cause of
religious liberty in the United States. As a high school student in Williamsport, Lisa
wanted to begin a prayer club. When officials refused her that right, she took them to
court. With the help of Sam Ericsson and the Christian Legal Society, she won. Her victory
in court then prompted legislators to design and sign into law the Equal Access Act.
The lesson is simple. One high school student, faithful to her convictions, moved
Congress to act. In a similar situation, Bridget Mergens of Omaha, Nebraska, ultimately
forced the Supreme Court to vindicate her religious free speech rights, ruling that public
high schools must treat all non-curriculum related student groups alike. Lisa and Bridget.
Two high school girls. Acting one at a time.
Robert P. Dugan, Winning the New Civil War, Jr.,
I remember hearing of a man at sea who was very sea-sick. If there is a time when a man
feels that he cannot do any work for the Lord it is then -- in my opinion. While this man
was sick he heard that a man had fallen overboard. He was wondering if he could do
anything to help to save him. He laid hold of a light, and held it up on the port-hole.
The drowning man was saved. When this man got over his attack of sickness he was up on
deck one day, and was talking to the man who was rescued. The saved man gave this
testimony. He said he had gone down the second time, and was just going down again for the
last time, when he put out his hand. Just then, he said, some one held a light at the
port-hole, and the light fell on his hand. A man caught him by the hand and pulled him
into the lifeboat.
It seemed a small thing to do to hold up the light; yet it saved the man's life. If you
cannot do some great thing you can hold the light for some poor, perishing drunkard, who
may be won to Christ and delivered from destruction. Let us take the torch of salvation
and go into these dark homes, and hold up Christ to the people as the Savior of the world.
Moody's Anecdotes, p. 44.
When Spurgeon was a teenager, he served as an assistant teacher in a school in
Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, kept by John Swindell.
The cook in the house was Mary King, a devout Christian with strong Calvinist beliefs.
When Spurgeon was experiencing deep conviction he talked with her, and she explained what
she knew of the Word. Spurgeon wrote, "From her I got all the theology I ever
needed." Mary King is one of the forgotten heroes of church history who influenced
such a mighty man of God.
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers,
Charles Eliet had a problem. He had a contract to build an engineering marvel-a
suspension bridge over the Niagra River. But he had no way of stretching his first cable
between the shores. Any boat that tried to cross the falls would be swept over. Then Eliet
hit on an idea. If a kite carrying a cord could be flown across the river, the cord could
then be used to pull larger cables across. So Eliet announced a kite-flying contest, and a
young man named Homan Walsh responded. On Walsh's first attempt the kite's cord broke when
it caught in the river's ice, but on his next try he succeeded in flying his kite to the
opposite shore of the river. The vital link was established, and the bridge built.
Today in the Word, MBI, August, 1991, p. 6.
One day E.H. Harriman, the railroad magnate, was walking along the tracks with an
assistant. Looking at a track bolt, he turned to the other man and asked, "Why does
so much of the bolt protrude beyond the nut?" "I don't really know," said
the assistant. "Except that it is the size we've always used." "Why should
we use a bolt of such length that a part of it is utterly useless?" asked Harriman.
"Well, when you come right down to it, there is no reason." The two continued
walking along the track for a moment, then Harriman asked how many track bolts there were
in a mile of track. He was told. "Well," said Harriman, "we have thousands
of miles of track, and there must be some fifty million track bolts in our system. If you
can cut an ounce from every bolt, you will have fifty million ounces of iron, and that is
something worthwhile. Change your bolt standard!"
Bits and Pieces, October, 1990.
Great events turn on small hinges.
The Gospel was first introduced to Japan through a portion
of the Scriptures that floated ashore and was picked up by a Japanese gentleman.
Afterwards he sent for a whole Bible and was instructed by the missionaries.
When the Queen of Korea lost her little child by death, a
slave girl in the palace told her of heaven where the child had gone, and the Savior who
would take her there. Thus the Gospel was first introduced to Korea by a little captive
The success of the mission in Telugu in the state of
Andhra Pradesh in India depended on the fact that John Cloud had studied engineering when
he was at college. Therefore he was able to take the contract for the building of the
canal during the famine and provide the employment of thousands of laborers to whom he
preached everyday on the text, John 3:16. The result of this work was the baptism of
10,000 converts in one year.
The battle of Bennington was gained, it is said, because a
little lame boy in Vermont set a shoe on Col. Warrens tender-footed horse, and thus
enabled the Colonel to lead up his regiment just in time to save the day. The victory of
Bennington decided the Battle of Saratoga, which decided the Revolutionary War.
The hunger of the son of Columbus led him to stop at the
monastery in Andalusia and ask for bread. The Prior of the monastery, who had been the
confessor of Queen Isabella, heard the story of the adventurous navigator, and brought
about an interview with the Queen, which resulted in the sailing of Columbus for the
discovery of America. It all hinged upon the hunger of the boy.
Robert Bruce took refuge in a cave from the pursuer who
was seeking his life. A spider at once wove a web across the mouth of the cave, and when
the pursuer came by, he saw the web and took it for granted that no one had entered. The
destiny of millions of people hinged upon that little spiders web.
In 1066 one of the most decisive battles in the history of the world was fought.
William, Duke or Normandy, ventured an invasion of England in the face of a formidable
opponent. But one of the reasons that gave him the confidence to try such a risky
undertaking was that he had a recently invented technological edge that the English did
not. That edge was the stirrup. While the English rode to the battlefield, they fought on
foot; conventional wisdom being that the horse was too unstable a platform from which to
fight. But the Norman cavalry, standing secure in their stirrups, were able to ride down
the English, letting the weight of their charging horses punch their lances home. This
technological edge led to the conquest of Britain. Without it, William might never have
attempted such a perilous war.
Lockheed advertisement, U.S. News and World
Report, Dec. 11, 1989.
Experience proves that most time is wasted, not in hours, but in minutes. A bucket with
a small hole in the bottom gets just as empty as a bucket that is deliberately kicked
Paul J. Meyer, in Bits & Pieces.
The U.S. News and World Report, commenting on a delay in the space shuttle
Columbia's second flight, pointed out that little things have often been the cause of big
difficulties in the space program. The reason for the postponement was a clogged
hydraulic-system filter. Officials reported that the 5 quarts of oil needed for a change
was worth only about $25. Yet the setback cost Americn taxpayers approximately $3 million
a day. On another occasion, a costly satellite was lost because a punctuation mark was
omitted from its computer program. And the cause for aborting an Apollo 13 moon landing in
1970 was a short circuit caused by a piece of wire worth about 50 cents.
U.S. News and World Report.
In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England.
In 1649, one vote caused Charles I or England to be executed.
In 1776 one vote determined that English, not German, would be the American language.
In 1845, One vote brought Texas into the Union.
In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
In 1875, one vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic.
In 1923, one vote gave Hitler control of the Nazi party.
In 1941, 12 weeks before Pearl Harbor, one vote saved the Selective Service.
In 1960, Richard Nixon lost the Presidential election and John F. Kennedy won it by
less than one vote per precinct in the United States.
In Elmer Bendiner's book, The Fall of the Fortresses, he describes a bombing
run over the German city of Kassel:
Our B-17 (The Tondelayo) was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not
unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on
the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an
explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple.
On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that
shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell
but eleven had been found in the gas tanks--eleven unexploded shells where only one was
sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. Even
after thirty-five years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard
the rest of the story from Bohn.
He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers
told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but
Bohn eventually sought out the answer. Apparently when the armorers opened each of those
shells, they found no explosive charge. They were clean as a whistle and just as harmless.
Empty? Not all of them.
One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The
Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually, they
found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: "This
is all we can do for you now.
Elmer Bendiner, The Fall of Fortresses.
I recently read about an old man, walking the beach at dawn, who noticed a young man
ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the
youth, he asked what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if
left in the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are
millions of starfish," countered the man. "How can your effort make any
difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to
safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said.
Hugh Duncan, Leadership.
Research and Statistics
Television talk show pioneer Phil Donahue has been dropped
by stations in New York and San Francisco, fueling industry speculation that he will be
off the air everywhere within a year. The 59-year old Donahue whose syndicated show has
been on for 28 years, was always near the top of the ratings until 1992 when Fort Worth
dentist Richard B. Neill began a one-man crusade against the content, which ranged from
mother-daughter stripper teams to homosexual marriages. Eventually, 221 sponsors contacted
by Neill quit advertising on Donahues show, causing revenues to decline. Neill told Christianity
Today that Donahue began cleaning up his act last yearwhich, ironically, caused
ratings to fall further in the suddenly flush trash-talk show market. Neills book, Taking
on Donahue and TV Morality (Multnomah, 1994), explains how to pressure sponsors into
dropping offensive programs.
Christianity Today, October 2,
1995, p. 111. (Dated Material)