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The Winner’s Edge: Why Details Matter

The Winner’s Edge: Why Details Matter


I get it. You’re read­ing the Leg­endary Col­le­gian to learn about how you can make your­self a bet­ter per­son, stu­dent, pro­fes­sional, a con­nois­seur of gen­tle­man­li­ness — a renais­sance man. If you’re any­thing like me, you’re over­whelmed by the count­less self-growth books that promise “# habits” or “# strate­gies” for suc­cess. I find that suc­cess is much sim­pler than that; suc­cess is the under­stand­ing and incor­po­ra­tion of the mind­set that “small things matter.”

Da Vinci Resize 300x300 The Winner’s Edge: Why Details Matter

In today’s world, our soci­etal empha­sis is on the end goal, whether that’s becom­ing CEO of a com­pany or start­ing a non-profit, rather than on the method and processes of accom­plish­ing the goal. Every­one has poten­tial to suc­ceed. But how do you actu­ally get there? You focus on the method and the process, rather than the end goal. It is focus­ing on the how that you are able to become a bet­ter leader and a bet­ter man. Our empha­sis is on the big ideas and big goals, whereas I will argue that it’s focus­ing on the small details that really set those few who are suc­cess­ful apart.


Let me explain (and bear with my small digres­sion): As a teenager, I mowed lawns in the sum­mer for extra spend­ing money and became the “in house” lawn expert tak­ing over the respon­si­bil­ity for my par­ents. I arrived home after a long day of mow­ing lawns and I felt the urge as to “freshen” up my lawn although it wasn’t the typ­i­cal day that I mowed the lawn at my house. I decided not to bag the grass and as a result, grass clip­pings went over my dri­ve­way (my pre­pu­bes­cent think­ing that the wind would mag­i­cally blow it away). Exhausted but feel­ing accom­plished after hav­ing com­pleted the job, I went inside to get out of the sum­mer heat. My dad came home after work and I remem­ber greet­ing him with a grin on my face, ready to bask in the praise that he was going to shine on me for “going the extra mile” and mow­ing our lawn. Rather than heap­ing praise on me, he gave me a stern look and told me that the job wasn’t done – that I left all of the grass clip­pings on the dri­ve­way. He then told me in his non-Mr. Brady fatherly teach­ing way that the small things mat­ter and that although I may do a lot of work, the com­ple­tion of the job and the small details mat­ter most. He went on to say that peo­ple for­get about the big details of a project, but will always remem­ber the small things, both pos­i­tive and negative.

The mind­set of focus­ing on the “small things” was solid­i­fied for me in this exam­ple. I made it a point of pride to focus on the small details on what­ever project I worked – whether at school, with extra-curricular activ­i­ties, or even in my per­sonal life. This, I feel, set me apart from the typ­i­cal, sub­ur­ban, priv­i­leged white kid. If I can boast — Peo­ple remem­bered me. I made a dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­nity. I grew as a man, as a leader, as a scholar, and as a professional.

So what does this look like? In the sim­plest sense, it’s teach­ing your­self to think about oth­ers first and fore­most – and, as cliché as it sounds, to treat oth­ers as you want to be treated. It’s also tak­ing pride in every aspect of your life. It’s not just wear­ing a suit bought at a box store and throw­ing on some second-hand shoes. It’s about focus­ing on every aspect of your out­fit: wear­ing a tie bar, buy­ing expen­sive shoes that you clean/take of your­self, and, impor­tantly, under­stand­ing why you’re doing these things. It’s send­ing a hand­writ­ten note, with a wax seal to thank your pro­fes­sor for meet­ing you for cof­fee. It’s really doing the read­ing for class, even though the pro­fes­sor won’t hold you account­able because you actu­ally want to learn. It’s mak­ing a con­certed to get to know the peo­ple around you – not just on the sur­face, rather form­ing strong bonds and part­ner­ships. It’s not for­get­ting the small details or “drop­ping the ball” for any­thing – whether per­sonal, aca­d­e­mic or pro­fes­sional. It’s never being late.

Vitruvian Man Resize1 300x154 The Winner’s Edge: Why Details Matter

Now with all of this being said, don’t con­fuse this atten­tion and pas­sion for details to be obsessive-compulsive dis­or­der, rather it’s a sense of pride. It’s about being the best per­son you can be and mak­ing those around you bet­ter; it’s the winner’s edge. In the com­ing “Winner’s Edge” series, I will focus on spe­cific steps that you can take in order to focus on the details, grow as a gen­tle­man and set your­self apart.

Scott Fry


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