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There are, on average, 100,000 hairs on the human head. No big deal if one goes missing, right? … until that missing hair is found in your food.
The temptation is to say that having 99 details in order is plenty good enough — obsessing over the 1 detail out of place is just “nit-picking.” Oddly enough, the person who sees their own work through this prism of good enough is likely to obsess over that one little hair in their burger just the same.
What if we held ourselves to the standard of perfection we expect from our chefs and waiters, doctors and pharmacists?
Details matter. All of them. The higher the quality of a product or performance, the more a detail out of place sticks out and can dominate the experience. Last night I had an incredible dinner of magnificent crab legs, but the 30 minutes we spent after dinner waiting for our simple dessert order to be delivered overshadowed what had been a great dining experience. Spending 2 hours at a restaurant and eating dessert at your kids’ bedtime because of slow service tends to do that.
Ask yourself: which of these two versions of the Star Spangled Banner is the more cringe-inducing?
Expectations matter. Aim to be more professional everyday, and your tolerance for details out of place has to go down, not up. Sure, the “devil is in the details” … so climb down into them, evict him, and allow Excellence to start living there instead.