Friday, February 28, 2014

It´s Only A Stupid Detail

Today, in just three short sentences, I´m going to share my tips for being a successful businessperson:

Don´t. Be. Me.

I have a knack for starting businesses. Not because I like to buy and sell, but because I like people. So, my business pursuits are always related to local needs.

The problem is, none of the commerce I have engaged in has ever lasted long enough for me to even earn back the money I´ve laid out to open it.

Now, I´m not like this in any other area of my life, so what am I doing wrong in my business dealings? I carry top of the line, gorgeous, trendy products. I always choose cute, catchy names. My latest entrepreneural attempt was a hair accessory store called ´Bandana Republic.´ I know, right?!

So, wherein lies my downfall? It doesn´t lie as much in my brutal honesty in telling customers when something doesn’t suit them, as it does in my hopeless ability to keep proper records of incoming and outgoing merchandise, or keeping any fiscal accounts.

 I realized all of this while studying Parshas Pikudei.

Pikudei literally means  the sum, and in it, the Torah makes an account and summary of all the materials, donations, vessels and objects used in making and in being a part of the Sanctuary. This Torah portion is the last one in the book of Shemos, and by summarizing all the details of the past parshios, it teaches a few important lessons, which I´ll share with you now.

The first is the importance of taking inventory; whether physically or spiritually. Where am I holding? What have I accomplished? Where have I failed? How can I be more successful? How can I improve? Asking ourselves these questions at the end of the day, week or month is the first step to success.

The second lesson I´ve learned this week is about the importance of details. Details seem so insignificant; but are they? Two weeks ago, as I´m sure you noticed (if you didn’t notice, please make believe you did) I didn´t post anything about the Parsha. It wasn´t because I forgot about it, nor was it because I had nothing to write. I actually sat at my desktop researching, learning, thinking, writing, and editing…for hours. Then suddenly, while I was rereading and about to save it, my two year old just marched over and pulled out the plug.

And all my brilliance disappeared. Just. Like. That.  

Of course, I blamed it on God, assuming He probably didn´t like my awesome connection between Ki Sisa and Valentine´s Day. But really, it was my own fault for forgetting one teeny, tiny detail. The icon in the top left corner of the page, known as ´Save.´

Details are a lot more important than we realize.

A parent has an obligation to nourish and protect their child. That would mean giving them bread, water, a pair of shoes, an outfit, a coat, and a roof. Do we know any parent that stops at their obligation? We give a lot more than that. Because, what teaches a person that we love them and care about them, are the details. Gifts, compliments, unexpected and unnecessary sweet gestures….

 Of course even those can be given out of obligation and without a connection to the heart. Therefore, even more important than what we say, do, or give, is how we say, do or it give it. A friend of mine refers to compliments as wrapping paper, because the outside is not JUST a detail- it is just as important as the gift itself.   

Taking the time to give sincere, specific praise to someone, can be life changing.

Relationships are often taken for granted. We just assume that that friend, spouse, boss, employee…will always be there. I need to ask myself, Am I skating by my relationships by just doing the bare minimum? By fulfilling my obligations? Or am I putting thought and detail into the things I say and do? Am I considering the other person´s best intentions when I give to them, or am I concerned with my own? Am I paying attention to their needs? Really paying attention?

How many of us hold back compliments just because?

That´s detail.

Bare in mind, of course, that accounting for everything can also lead to pettiness, so we need to focus the attention to detail on the positive side of the middah.

Another significant lesson we learn from our theme of accounting for everything, is, in my opinion the most important characteristic for a person to possess, and that is the middah of hakarat hatov, recognition of goodness or kindness being done to us and being grateful for it.

What made the mishkan so beautiful? The unity, the selfless donations, the work, sweat and tears that people put into it. That accounting of every single material used, every item donated, every ounce of energy and effort…might all be mentioned just to teach us the art of gratitude. Was the woman who donated one earring to the mishkan insignificant? (The OCD in me really hopes she donated the other one shortly after.) No. Her tiny donation made her just as important as the woman who donated a big copper mirror. Every single action, every little kindness should be remembered and appreciated. Who knows? That little earring may be what holds the entire kiyor together!

We may not realize it, but every little detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can actually be playing a very important role in our lives. I came to this realization the time I spent an entire night with a mosquito in my bed.

Next time you catch yourself thinking that that little compliment on your tongue is just silly and no big deal to hold back, remember how your seemingly inconsequential words are actually quite consequential, and can literally change the recipient´s day, week…or even their life.

What to do if the compliment is not on your tongue? If you haven´t even thought of giving one?

That can be learned by the next lesson of accounting.

A few weeks ago the Jews cheated on God by building the Golden calf. That betrayal had broken a level of trust between God and us, and quite deservingly so.   

But, instead of reaching for the gun, God concentrated instead on the good they were doing for Him and for His mishkan. He made an accounting of all the materials and donations and work force, because we need to learn the value of forgiveness and moving forward. Even after we stabbed Him in the back, He still allowed us to go ahead and build that Sactuary. The Sactuary that is God´s home; so holy and intimate.

Right away, he trusted us again. He believed in us and in our relationship with Him.

So, Hashem made an accounting in the Torah, to teach us that sometimes people screw up, they do bad things…really bad…but instead of focusing on that negative action or on the hurt feelings, we should turn our focus to other details. To the good details.

If someone wrongs me, I need remove myself from the negativity, move forward, and focus on the accounting of the positive attributes of that person. This can be very difficult because even if some good is found, our nature is to let the negative shine through. 

So, the message is that in order to find that goodness, we need to go so far to focus on the positive, that we should become petty about it! Become petty about every good detail. Remember every little good thing they have ever done to you and for you.

After reaching this level, you think you might have a compliment or two on your tongue?

And now, here´s my account and summary of my post.

Pekudei.  Personal inventory. Accountings. Details. Forgiveness. Positive focus. Sincere compliments.

And most importantly, I learned to save my work on the computer.

It´s all in the details.

Have a beautiful Shabbos!