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Toenails And Other Little Things That Matter

14/07/2016 6:52 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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close-up of hands clipping toenails with a nail cutter

"To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization."

Harriet Beecher Stowe

One of the most basic fallacies of the human brain is its attraction to vividness. We see success stories, great individuals, big banners and what not. We aspire to change the world and innovate like Steve Jobs did. We strive to be leaders of the century. We want to make a difference globally, like Gates, Zuckerberg and Musk.

But let me ask you one simple question. When was the last time you made your bed? Or rather, when was the last time you remembered trimming your toenails... without someone having to prompt you? I doubt you have an answer.

Humans have always wanted success in every field they have worked in. A scientist wants the next big discovery. A business owner wants the next big profit. A garbage collector wants his next big increment. And all of them are working towards that goal. But why is it that despite the same hard work of all individuals, only a few reach the top? Everyone knows the same scientific theories and the same business knowledge, yet only a few scale new heights. Why? Simple answer -- God lies in the details.

Unless we truly focus on the small details in our day-to-day life, it will be difficult to scale up and reach new heights.

The attraction of the mind to vividness distracts us from the constituents of that vividness. As a result, we aim for the big picture, but forget about the pixels. We aim to save the forest, but forget about the trees. We aim to change the world, but forget to change ourselves. And, readers, how can one ever change something without embodying that change?

And that change starts small. Have you heard of Gestalt? It is a German word which represents that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. My point here is this -- the so called "little" things, or the things that "seem to make no difference" shape our thoughts. Our thoughts shape our actions. Our actions shape our habits. And our habits determine our results. Simply put, it is the butterfly effect.

Today, no one talks about these hidden factors, which determine an individual's success. Consequently, the youth are misled into believing that they are also as capable as Steve Jobs was. All I'm saying here is to do a reality check, and do not be a victim to Dobelli's "survivorship bias." One must not forget that it was Steve Jobs's inherent desire for perfection in the littlest of things that played a crucial role in shaping what Apple is today.

So, unless we truly focus on the small details in our day-to-day life, it will be difficult to scale up and reach new heights. This may sound very mundane and irrational, but it is the mere truth.

The small things matter. The subtleties matter. And we do not heed them, because of the programming of our minds. In fact, these small aspects are the "X-factors" which differentiate individuals and allow a few to be successful.

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