In 1983, cardiologist Robert Eliot offered some wisdom in a Times cover story: “Rule №1 is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule №2 is, it’s all small stuff…”.
The value of giving every day the full force of attention, energy, and grit that you have to offer can be found in the what happens when the work — the consistent chipping away of important problems — adds up to: products become ready to ship, problems are at last met with good solutions, and things become noticeably better for the culture and people.
Achieving this ideal every day is unrealistic though, because life happens: maybe you catch a cold, maybe you feel mentally burnt out, or maybe your kid wakes you up at 3AM and you never got back to bed. It’s not a matter of if days like these will come, it’s a matter of when. And when these days do come, it’s worth seeking perspective from Eliot’s sage advice: don’t sweat it; it’s small stuff.
The average lifespan for a human today is 26,718 days, which means that the occasional off-day you’re having amounts to <.0001% of a typical life.
Here’s a more sensible aspiration: endeavor to make the most out of most days, because time is limited and good work does add up to make a difference in the end.
And when the occasional bad day presents itself, give yourself permission to not sweat it because in the grand scheme it likely will not matter.