To Win Big, Think Small

by Midnight Freemason Regular Contributor
WB Christopher Hathaway 

Photography by  Catherine Lee Balsamello-Rutledge

We have all been in a classroom that had this quote hanging up on the wall: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” While it’s catchy and has good intentions, when we try to execute that strategy, we often miss the moon, miss the stars, and come crashing down worse off than we ever were pre-takeoff. So how do we achieve our wildest dreams? Set expectations low and learn how to win.

Small calculated steps turn into winning big. Innovation, financial freedom, weight loss, all starts with intermediate achievable goals. In Freemasonry, we call this chipping away at our rough ashlar. Our rough ashlar represents our imperfect form. There is a reason we say chipping away. You can’t improve yourself overnight. Chipping away at your imperfections takes patience and persistence.

Many people think success is lucky or inherited, that a million-dollar idea comes out of nowhere. In reality, innovation and new ideas do not happen that way. Jeffrey Lowenstein, one of my professors at the University of Illinois, explained that creativity is a cognitive process that hinges on changing one’s perspective. In other words, the idea of the mad scientist coming up with a brilliant idea due to his sheer intellect is not correct. We can all be creative innovators if we start with the right perspective.

Having studied business and economics, I tend to see things through a financial lens. When trying to win with money, the first step people often choose is getting out of debt via the snowball effect made popular by Dave Ramsey. It is the most successful method because it allows people to get small wins, changing their attitudes and perspectives. Is it the best way mathematically? Not in theory. But it is the best way in practice because it yields the results people are seeking.

Think about your lodge. How many times have people said “we need more candidates” or “we need more help with the degree work.” Those are actually big goals that often lead to disappointment. Start with small wins that get people excited and motivated. How is the lodge doing on landscaping? What was the quality of the last meal? Is the lodge clean and professional? All three of those things are small wins that take little effort and manpower. You would be surprised by the kind of momentum you can gain by doing the small things correctly.

Take a look around your lodge and try to achieve small wins this month or year. Use the 15-minute rule to see what you can achieve in your Masonic activity. Take 15 minutes every day and do as much as you can. That could be studying rituals, sending out emails or phone calls, sweeping a dusty corner of the lodge, or writing down ideas for the next stated meeting. Your brethren will take notice and you can explain how easy it is to achieve your goals by breaking them down into small actionable items.

One of my favorite quotes from Hall of Fame Duke Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is: “Having fun is doing hard things well.” Freemasonry is not easy. It is not for the faint of heart. But when we improve ourselves, our lodges, and our communities, we all benefit. When it’s done well, it’s a lot of fun.

The Bible, one of the great lights in Freemasonry, has this to say in Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much”. The words trusted and faithful are interchanged depending on translation but the meanings are the same. Do we have faith and trust in ourselves to do the small things right? Can we really expect a man to give his time, talents, and money to an organization that doesn’t pay attention to the details? Not in today’s world. There are too many options. Freemasonry is just one school of moral thought, just one form of social activity, just one branch of charity. I am confident if we go back to the basics and take care of the fundamentals, the best of what Freemasonry has to offer will satisfy our members for years to come.

Who’s with me? Who wants to win big by thinking small?


WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is a plural member of Normal Masonic Lodge #673 as well as Bloomington Lodge #43, where he is a Past Master. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman.  He is the Oriental Guide in the Divan for the Mohammed Shiners, and the 1st Vice President of the Bloomington Shrine Club. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys spending time with his wife Taylor and cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs.   

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