How We Do Anything Is How We Do Everything


I was on a flight not that long ago and witnessed something that got me thinking. We had landed and started to deplane from front to back. Row by row each aisle began to move to the center, grab their bag, and exit the plane. Par for the course. We were near the back of the plane and I was in the window seat, so I naturally just observed for several minutes until the line had made its way back to me. Anyone that’s ever flown knows that it’s not a free for all when you exit a plane. There’s a natural order to when you exit, and everyone follows it. Row by row, front to back. This process provides order in what could easily be a chaotic situation. As I sat there watching I noticed a guy a few rows behind me grab his bag and start cutting his way past all of us that were still waiting for our aisles to exit. Instead of keeping to the order of things, he maneuvered his way past any and everyone and made his way off the plane. This naturally bothered me, but what followed was more frustrating. Because this one guy had done it, multiple people on the plane followed suit, and proceeded to barge their way ahead skipping past the aisles of people sitting there. What was order one moment, was now chaos. All it took was one guy to make it acceptable for 10 others to do the same.

I don’t know the guy on the plane who started that mess. I couldn’t point him out in a crowd if I had to. But this minor thing that he did that day got me thinking about how that extrapolates out into the rest of his life. No, cutting the deplaning line is not a very big deal in the grand scheme of life. But oftentimes the little things we do and decisions we make shed light into how we operate as human beings. See, the things we do, whether big or small, don’t operate in isolation. They are a part of one mind, one person, and are more often than not a reflection of our lives as a whole. When we treat others poorly in one area of our life, what’s to stop us from treating people poorly in another area?

There’s a famous commencement speech that was given at the University of Texas by a Navy SEAL admiral. The entire speech is gold, but one thing in particular stood out to me. He tells the new graduates

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” 

He goes on to talk about how completing that one small task makes it easier to complete the next task and the next task and the next task. But his larger message was this – if you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. This message is simple yet profound because it affects all of us. How we do anything is how we do everything. Have you ever hit the snooze button one too many times and it negatively affects almost the entire rest of your day? How we do anything is how we do everything. Have you ever said one line of gossip just to find yourself casually having entire conversations about others? How we do anything is how we do everything. Have you ever found yourself skipping one workout that turns into skipping an entire week? How we do anything is how we do everything.

That guy on the plane could have been, and likely is, a decent human being. I don’t have any insight beyond the minute or so that I watched him create his own exit plan. But I know if it were me in his shoes, if I were the guy cutting people off just to exit a minute or two sooner, that small thing would be a larger reflection into the rest of my world. I’d find it much easier to flip someone off on the highway. I’d find it much easier to leave a 10% tip because my fries were too crispy. I’d find it much easier to have one or two too many drinks. We get to choose the person we are every single day, and it starts with the little things – how we choose to treat others in seemingly meaningless interactions, the foods we put in our mouth with each forkful, the words we choose to say with each breath, and whether or not we decide to make our bed each morning. Because how we do anything is how we do everything.