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Mind of Jacka: Don't Miss the Small Stuff

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU May 16, 2022

When I write these things, I try my best to make them about internal audit. After all, it is the Institute of Internal Auditors that allows me to use their webpage for my blatherings ("internal audit" right there in the name), so the least I can do is tangentially touch on the topic. This means I often walk a thin line between broad, general subjects and things that are specifically about internal audit. Of course, Internal audit is a subset of the entire world, so anything within the entire world should have to do with internal audit. But I find that a lot of my subjects lean more to the general than the specific. I do my best to make the tie-in to internal audit but, well…

This time, I'm not even going to try. I know you can make those connections yourself. Accordingly, what you hold in your virtual hands is a discussion about life and how, in the weird, confusing, and pressured way we live it, we might approach our days to make things go better. Touchy-feely, I know. But sometimes internal auditors need the reminder that we are human. (And look! I managed to work internal audit into the discussion!!)

Still with me? Thanks. After those first paragraphs I wasn't sure who would stick around. But welcome. And, as always, caveat lector.

I've got a couple of trips coming up that I've been looking forward to for a while. One is a quick, two-night turnaround to Vegas. The other is my sometimes-annual-sometimes-more-often-sometimes-I-miss-a-year-but-I-try-to-make-it-up-next-year trip to Yellowstone. A 14-hour drive from Phoenix, I spend at least three days just watching, waiting for, and marveling at one of nature's most unique creations — the geyser. (Want to get interested yourself? Let me know, and I'll turn you on to the Geyser Observation and Study Association and their newsletter, The Sput. No, I'm not making that up.)

I think most of us have such trips, experiences, events, and occasions that help sustain us. Weddings, birthdays, concerts, voyages, geysers — future highlights that make the days move forward in anticipation. And, while the waiting can be almost painful, it also makes the time that lies between the waiting and the adventure more tolerable. Anticipation helps us move forward in life.

However, how often do we think about the things — the small things — that help us move through each day?

There is a website that you might want to consider visiting, "The Marginalian," by Maria Popova. In her posts she examines a lot of different ideas by exploring books. Philosophy, writing, thinking, biology — you name it, she has discussed it. She combines the knowledge from her extensive reading to provide fascinating insights about life, the universe, and everything. They are not necessarily quick reads, but they often contain interesting insights. Last week, she described a book titled Things to Look Forward To by Sophie Blackwell.

The premise of the book is compelling. And it is why we are all gathered here today. As Ms. Popova describes it:

One morning under the hot shower, Sophie began making a mental list of things to look forward to — a lovely gesture of taking tomorrow's outstretched hand in that handshake of trust and resolve we call optimism.

Ms. Blackwell began sharing these insights on Instagram, and as so often happens in these situations, those insights became a book — a "catalogue" of the small things that make life worth living and help us move forward in our lives.

Which brings us to the point. As you are going through your morning rituals — the brushing of teeth, the combing of hair, the eating of breakfast, the feeding of the cat, the letting out of the dog, the taking of a shower (just as happened with Ms. Blackwell) — begin thinking about the small things that will make you smile during the day. What are the stress reducers rather than stress inducers? What will be the bright spots? What will be a small downhill run in the uphill trudge of the day? What will be the little thing that, if you didn't think about it now, might be missed entirely? What are the moments that will help set the jangling reality of life aside, if only for just a second?

A really good cup of good coffee. A nice cup of tea. A sunny morning. A rainy day. (I live in Phoenix; I like the rain.) A garden you'll pass. A nice song on the radio. A smiling face at the coffee shop/on the bus/at work. A meeting that just might get cancelled. A friend you haven't seen in a while. A friend you see every day. An audit report that will actually be issued. A meeting that will help set things right with the client. A really good playlist for the drive home. A sunset. Dinner with a friend/a spouse/the family. Quiet time alone. The feel of the pillow when you first lay down to sleep.

Your bright spots will be your own. Your moments of light will shine differently. Your mileage will differ. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. But they are out there; we all have them. Spend some time in the morning thinking about them. And be ready to anticipate, acknowledge, and enjoy them as they speed by you in the helter-skelter imbroglio that is your life.

Yeah, I warned you, this is all touchy-feely. And I'd like to apologize for it, but I'm not going to. (As noted, you were appropriately warned.) There is nothing wrong with touchy-feely. The pandemic and uncertainty and fracas and madness around us have all contributed to taking a swipe at our mental well-being. And we have to recognize that we can't just slog through it, expecting the manure to magically lead to roses. We have to take an active role in that transformation. And that can start by taking the small step of anticipating the small moments in our life that will make it all worthwhile.

This isn't stop and smell the roses. This is recognizing that those roses are coming and enjoying the anticipation of their arrival.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.


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