Get the Easy Stuff Right

Prof. Scott Galloway has a semi-famous email exchange where he tells a student to “get the easy stuff right.” The email is now part of his class syllabus and may be the most read late policy in the history of academia.

The story goes like this: a student walks into a class Galloway is teaching over an hour late, gets turned away, and later writes the professor an email explaining how he felt he was treated unfairly. Galloway puts the aspiring MBA’s logic in check, perhaps a bit aggressively, and says that life is hard enough – so it’s really important to get the easy stuff right. We all should show respect for others, have decent manners, show humility, etc. The full email is worth a read.  

Our lives are filled with difficult choices, long hours, and social institutions that will test our very limits. Future heads of business, in particular, should have an understanding of the world they are trying to graduate into. Success will come from two parts: our ability to play the games, and our ability to survive in the game. Playing the game can be a solo activity, but surviving will require us to learn to play alongside others.

We might think that playing the game is the easy part and surviving is the hard part, but that’s precisely backward. When we show respect and kindness, we build a network that will support us. This makes the easy part also the most important part. If we can figure out how to stick around and survive, our odds of eventually winning tend to go up measurably. On top of that, it’s hard for success to mean much without anyone else around.

Galloway’s lesson is a simple one, and we could all stand to be reminded of it once in a while. Get it together. Get the easy stuff right.

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