There are many different schools of thought on where to invest your energy. Some are convinced that you must look at the big picture, make 5 and 10 year plans and always be laying groundwork for potential future projects. They often warn against getting too caught up in the minutia. I’ve heard
“Penny wise, pound foolish”
preached from individuals who live in this mindset.
On the other end of the spectrum there are those who live for detail. These are the people who get caught up their projects obsessively. They miss meals and meetings because they are so engrossed in their task. These are two examples on the extreme ends of the spectrum, and everyone else, to an extent, lives somewhere in between.
An example of finding a balance between attention to detail and big picture thinking can be found in Steve Jobs. There’s really no question of the big picture that Jobs had in mind while steering Apple towards being one of the biggest technology companies in the 21st Century. His attention to detail is often brought up too, detail that at the time seems trivial and unimportant. Some may remember a scene from the movie Jobs (2013), where Jobs fires an employee over disagreeing with him “adding pretty fonts” to an already behind schedule project. While this scene didn’t actually occur, Jobs’ dedication to the minutia of the project still existed, in a much less dictatorial fashion.
Just this morning I migrated from Helvetica to Work Sans, for my personal website. One of my favourite parts about front-end architecture is the designing of the user experience. I love things that are well designed. The idea that the best designed objects are the ones that we never notice never ceases to fascinate me. For instance, look around you right now, every object in your vicinity was designed by someone. Even if you do know the company that was responsible for designing a specific product, the actual artist behind the design is a nameless employee who sold their brainchild to that company for a pay cheque.
I don’t particularly like flashy and in your face websites, or anything else in that style for that matter. I’m passionate about minimalist designs that are useable, effective and efficient. I’m always going to have a place in my heart for this, as it truly is what is says it is.
Before I discovered Jekyll, I hosted this blog on Wordpress. One of the main reasons why I migrated away was because I didn’t have complete control. I never found a theme on Wordpress that I actually liked. There was always something wrong with it. Either the colour scheme was off, the font sucked or there were too many useless features that I didn’t want cluttering up my space. Jekyll on the other hand, allows me complete control over every margin and hex code. This lets me control the details, to sweat over the small stuff, that makes the overall product beautiful.
At the same time, a beautifully layout means nothing if the content is subpar. With more and more boilerplates available online for websites, there are an increasing number of good looking websites that look identical to each other. For example, Bootstrap is becoming an increasingly popular framework for developing front-end web applications, but it’s style is overused. So much so that this hilarious website, was created just to expose how repeated some features are.
“How you do one thing, is how you do everything”
I have my Head Coach to thank for this quote. It boils down to that you should be doing everything to the best of your abilities, because you never know if you’re going to rely on it in the future. For example, I could definitely half-ass this article. There’s no reason for me to put effort into this whatsoever. However, what if a potential future employer wants to read some of my writing, and this is the article they stumble upon?
Additionally this attitude speaks to one’s work ethic. If you put a lot of effort into every task you undertake, it becomes a habit. Habits are extremely powerful, and I highly recommend checking out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg which is an incredibly engaging book that illuminates why we do the things we do.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”
The above quote is credited to Aristotle, but I never trust quote attributions that I find on the internet. There are way too many quotes circulating that are attributed to the wrong people. On a John Oliver segment he humourously deconstructs the internet’s fascination with quotes imposed over pictures of famous people, who have never actually spoken those words.
To return to my original point, I believe that sweating the small stuff is important. Taking care to do everything to the best of your abilities is difficult, but oh so rewarding. The satisfaction gained from cleaning one’s room, or reorganizing one’s file system should not be taken for granted. Doing the small things well, and being a perfectionist with the nuances of a task, leaves the big picture looking much clearer. This way sweating the small stuff actually does enhance the big picture and propels you forward, even though it may not feel like it at the time.