Friday, October 17, 2008

My Attitude About the Details

Life is so much about details. I’ve heard that to be “successful” it’s 2% details and 98% attitude. I must admit that it wasn’t until today that I realized I was minimizing the importance of details, rather than maximizing the importance of attitude.

In the past, I would focus on big-picture stuff, while neglecting the details. I would think that keeping a huge vision in front of me meant that I could ignore the details. That somehow they’d all work themselves out, because life was 2% detail and 98% attitude, right?

To be honest, I just didn’t want to deal with the details. I’m not a detail person. Talking and thinking about big stuff and fun stuff is far more exciting than actually doing the work!

Well, the result of this neglect is I would get so far behind, buried in the minutiae of stuff that had piled up, and my attitude would turn sour. Then I’d have to stop everything, unbury myself, deal with any cranky feelings, work to resume my great attitude, ignore the details, get buried, stop everything, unbury myself, and on and on the not-so-merry-go-round I would go.

The latest example is that I just got done, three days ago, with our 2007 taxes. I filed an extension six months ago, because I was just too busy with big-picture stuff to do the taxes. Yeah, right.

This way of life has been an ongoing cycle for a long, long time.

And today, that cycle has been broken. Details are extremely important and necessary. It’s not about not doing the details. It’s to do them, do them well, and in addition, work on having a great attitude. It is not an either/or proposition.

Because I’ve finally come to understand details’ incalculable value, I’m learning to appreciate and embrace them.

What comes to mind was this past summer, when we taught the kids to ride their bikes. I remember how frustrated our daughter was when she couldn’t seem to get herself moving. She couldn’t get the pedals to turn from a standstill position.

With great detail I walked her through the positioning of her foot, with her toe pointed up, and her heel on the top pedal, lifting her body up, and pushing down on that heel with all her might, as she held on to the handle bars, and used her other heel to continue the momentum, while looking straight ahead.

On top of this detail, I also walked her through having a great attitude. Teaching her to replace words like “I can’t. This is too hard. No!” with words like, “I can do this! I’m a winner! I’m a champion! Yes!”

I could be cheering my daughter on, jumping up and down with great enthusiasm. But without the detail, we’d be at a standstill, wouldn’t we?

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