When my husband, Sam, undertakes a task — putting up a shelf, fixing a hinge, organizing a workspace — it can be a lesson in patience for me. I just want it done so we can move on to something more interesting. He wants to do it the right way.
This used to seem unreasonable to me, until I saw the consequences of both the slapdash approach and the methodical approach. The truth is, when you do something right the first time, you are far less likely to have to do it again. Overall, paying attention to details will save you time (because you don’t have to revisit the sloppy issue again), money (because you do it once), and frustration (again, because the quality of the work is more lasting).
While sometimes I’m still impatient with processes, I have come to realize the wisdom in this approach and try to employ it when it makes sense.
There’s a common saying from the title of a best-selling book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff. While the book’s subtitle (and the book itself) contains sound advice (“Simple Ways To Keep The Little Things From Taking Over Your Life”) the general — and now popular — philosphy of not sweating the “small stuff” tends to promote ignoring details, dismissing minor events, and disregarding things that the don’t interest us all that much. Often the details are boring and tedious, but critical to the outcome.
A few weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, finally got around to giving testimony on the Benghazi disaster. Here is a snippet of that exchange:
“What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened, and do everything we can to prevent it to it from ever happening again, Senator.”
What difference does it make? With all due respect to the Secretary (and I’m not sure how much she is due), how can you find out what happened to prevent it from happening again — if you think what happened makes no difference at all?
She’s a prime example of someone who won’t sweat the small stuff, the large stuff, or anything in between.
Everything you say, every thought you entertain, and everything you do, serves as an advance or retreat in your pursuit of excellence.
In politics, in careers, in home life, recognizing that everything counts to some extent. Paying attention to details, parsing the difference between critical details and twaddle, and acting carefully on those things that really do make a difference, makes all the difference.
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