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The Power of Small Things

The Power of Small Things

How A Few Tiny Changes Add Up To Make a Big Difference In Music And Life

The Power of One Percent

We’ve all heard that “little things make a big difference.” In guitar, fingering a note just a millimeter or two over or behind the fret is a tiny difference, but it makes a big difference in tone and intonation. And in life, showing up a few minutes early or flashing a warm smile at the new person in the office or class is a small behavior that can have big ripple effects.

But how much of a difference can a tiny change make? I recently learned a business approach called “The Power Of One” which quantifies the massive results even 1% changes can make in business results, and it has me really curious about the effect of tiny changes in learning guitar, and life!

The Power Of One

I love serving as a volunteer coach for new business owners in the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program. Working with these dedicated entrepreneurs inspires me, and as a bonus, I get to share in their learning when I sit in on their classes.

In a recent “Learning Day”, the coach led us through an exercise called “The Power Of One” that proved that by changing three variables by just 1% (in this case revenue, cost of goods, and overhead) that the bottom line would increase not by 3%, but by 18%!

Increasing profits by 18%? That’s a significant difference, perhaps even life changing to a business owner struggling to pay the rent and stay afloat, or to make a new hire or to expand. Making such a huge change might sound challenging.

But changing three items by 1%? That seems more doable. And yet, mathematically, these tiny changes add up to a big difference. Maybe that old quote is right: “watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

The Pennies And Dollars Of Relationships, Energy, And Guitar

That got me wondering about how small changes might interact in other areas of our life.

Like relationships. Could spending 1% more time together + saying 1% more loving words + 1% more refraining from taking offense at annoying habits result in an 18% closer relationship?

Or energy. Could getting 1% more sleep + eating 1% less unhealthy high sugar food + drinking 1% more water result in an 18% more energetic life?

Or, since we’re a community of advancing guitar players, could practicing 1% more at a 1% faster tempo + spending 1% more time with other guitar players result in an 18% improvement in guitar playing?

Way Leads On To Way

Of course, calibrating dollars to one percentage point is easier than calibrating love or guitar skills to one percentage point. So I wondered if instead of an exact percentage, I could select a small behavior. In fact, a tiny behavior.

Guitar playing. Maybe you already practice guitar. But could leaving your guitar on a stand next to your couch + grabbing your guitar and practicing chord changes for the first 5 minutes whenever you watch Netflix + watching a documentary about a rock band add up to a big difference in your guitar playing?

Relationships. Or could making eye contact with your loved one at least once before leaving for work + sending a check in text during the day + going to bed at the same time make a difference in a relationship?

Yes and yes!

Our every action has a consequence. And these consequences interact with other consequences and pile up. And then? In the words of Robert Frost “way leads onto way.”

What extremely small changes can you make to start piling up the life you want?

On To Greatness,

Dan Emery


The “Power Of One” exercise was based on a chapter from the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish.

The quote “watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. But when I researched the quote on the internet, I realized that the US didn’t adopt the dollar until 1792, two years after Franklin’s death. He did, however, say “fart proudly.”

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Dan Emery is dedicated to Coaching Personal Greatness, One Lesson At A Time. He is the founder of NYC's friendliest and fastest growing guitar schools, New York City Guitar School, Brooklyn Guitar School, Queens Guitar School and NYC Guitar School, East, and the author of the Amazon best-selling Guitar For Absolute Beginners and six other books on learning guitar and deliberate practice. He coaches new entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program and especially enjoys helping other Educational Entrepreneurs. He has a Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, extensive performing experience as songwriter and guitarist for The Dan Emery Mystery Band, a wife, three kids, a cat and some juggling equipment.


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