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By: James River Church10/17/17

How the Details Change History – A Lesson From Steve Jobs

“Passion isn’t something that lives way up in the sky, in abstract dreams and hopes. It lives at ground level, in the specific details of what you’re actually doing every day.”  –Marcus Buckingham

Steve Jobs once debated for thirty minutes on the shade of grey that Apple would use on their restroom signs in their stores. Some would define this as obsessive, some unnecessary, but the fact is that his genuine passion for the details is what made Jobs into the man that built the Apple brand. Jobs continually pushed the envelope of quality in his work – knowing that the details were not only important, they were everything.

Why the Details Are Everything

It was Job’s father who had an enormous impact on how he viewed what is most important for his business. He understood what great leaders understand – the “big picture” without the little details is a blurry picture.

Jobs often thought of his first project he worked on with his father – building a fence behind the family home. Fifty years after the fence was constructed, Jobs showed it to Walter Isaacson (who was writing a Biography on Jobs at the time), still standing and recalled a lesson about making things of quality that he learned from his father.

The “big picture” without the little details is a blurry picture.

Touching the boards of the inside of the fence, he said that his father “loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

This philosophy, ingrained in Jobs by his father, caused him to approach everything he did with that same care. Jobs would often speak of lessons learned from his father on paying attention to the “little things,” and as a result, Apple would stand as a pillar of quality.

Your Best Work will be Your Greatest Work

Attention to detail is not necessarily fun; it’s hard work. Details often go unnoticed by most; however, when we are devoted to quality in our work, it leaves a legacy that, like Jobs, will influence and inspire the people around us long after we are gone.

To put things in perspective:

  • There are 7 billion people on Earth
  • 3 billion people use the internet
  • Apple currently has 1 billion device users
  • That’s 1/3 of the internet population

Jobs could never have foreseen that the small company he started in his garage would grow into the empire Apple is today, but that is what paying attention to the details does.

BIG wins come through small practices

Success is not an accident. Big results don’t just happen but come to people and to companies who practice learning how the small impacts the big.

Take the iPhone for instance. What makes the iPhone such a big success is not just the fact that it’s a phone with a screen – the iPhone is successful because of hundreds if not thousands of small decisions and components that make a big difference to the millions of iPhone owners. From screen size/capabilities to features, functions, and capabilities, many small aspects make the iPhone the iPhone.

Big results don’t just happen but come to people and to companies who practice learning how the small impacts the big.

John Wooden put it this way, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Whether you are a lawyer, a teacher, a waitress, a janitor, or a CEO, your ability to pay attention to details will determine your success or failure. People are constantly looking for ways to get ahead in business. They look for the “next big thing” that will propel them into whatever position they desire, but the people who truly get ahead are the people who take the extra step to do what others neglect to do. They learn to love the details.

How People Feel About a Product Matters More Than What They Know About It

Apple is known for making quality products, but their quality doesn’t stop with just the iPhone, iPad, etc. Steve Jobs understood that the success of the Apple brand would have more to do with how people felt about the product and less about what they knew. Brand loyalty is not so much the result of computer memory, processing speed, and screen size. Do those features matter? Absolutely! But they aren’t what drive people to purchase their products.

Apple takes seriously the packaging of their products. If you’ve ever unwrapped a new iPhone or MacBook, you know it’s an experience. It’s fun and creates a feeling of anticipation.

There are videos all over YouTube of people unwrapping their new iPhone as people watch with anticipation and excitement! Apple is touching people emotionally with just their packaging – and that’s the result of well-thought-through details.

Details Are Noticed

When we are running low on time, energy, or creativity, our tendency can be to rush the job and let the details slide, but people see and know the value of the tiniest detail put into a product. They want to purchase something because they know when a product’s finer details are given attention, the bigger and more general details have also been given the same—or even more. That’s quality.

We don’t always think of being detail minded when we create our list of leadership qualities, but that is exactly what a great leader should be. Love and emotion are in the details. When people fall in love with what you are doing, when they get excited about what you are creating, it provides an opportunity to reach more and more people and leave a mark on history that even Steve Jobs couldn’t have imagined years ago.