We’re talking about Pam the perfect cooking spray for my diet. Read the label, No fat, No Calories, No Problem! The only issue is the label was deceptive. The suggested serving is 1/3 second spray  (Try spraying 1/ 3 of a second at home). If a company makes the serving size really small the government allows them to round down the number to 0. When I use Pam I typically spray a good three seconds. That’s almost ten times the suggested amount. This is enough to impact my diet. This was one of those times when “nothing” was something after all.

When my friend Brian Calkins showed me this it struck me how often I rounded small things down to zero. I started my business and got married at about the same time. Both were challenging for the first few years and there were times I didn’t know if I would make it. As the business grew, the financial pressure decreased and things started to get easier. We were happy about the addition of each new job even though it always meant more travel time for me.

After a while Lisa seemed less enthusiastic about my success. When I’d ask “are you OK? “She’d say “I’m fine”. The look on her face was the giveaway and I could sense the widening gap between us.  I asked “what’s wrong?”  “Nothing” she said.  Good, I read the label and was assured there was No fat, No calories, No problem. This was one of those times when I rounded something down to zero. The irritation she felt from a single trip was small and shouldn’t be that important. The irritation she felt from being alone most of the time (I was now gone three weeks a month) had added up until she couldn’t stand it. She had reached the breaking point and our marriage was truly at risk.  Once again “Nothing” was something.

I was coaching the president of a rapidly expanding service organization. He was bright, ambitious and worked hard with long hours. They were short handed and everyone was doing multiple jobs. They knew that this is the life of a start up. Unfortunately he was getting feedback from his staff that he was missing deadlines.

This wasn’t like him and he wasn’t sure how it started or how to stop it.  When we took a deep look at his behavior we noticed that each time he took on additional responsibility he asked himself if he was able to do the new task. The answer was usually “No problem”.  He knew he was capable and had the ability to do the jobs. What he should have asked himself was “should I be doing this” not can I do it.

Most of our struggles come from the accumulation of seemingly insignificant “Nothings”.  Little doubts, criticisms, over commitments, or even white lies. Watch out for nothing, it all too often is something important.