The other day I was watching Formula One with my dad. I believe this was one of the first times I watched an entire Formula One race. Start to finish. I’ve always thought that it would be boring to see a couple of fast pace cars drive around the same lap for more than 56 laps. But to my surprise, it wasn’t. In fact, I learned more from this one race about life, than I did from watching a YouTube video or documentary.
For a long time, I’ve been seeing more and more lessons hiding within the seemingly dull and common moments of life. It is as if, when I am present I see through what’s happening and see the underlying truth. The same happened when I was watching Formula One. It taught me a lesson I had been ignoring for a large portion of my life. Seeing it as a bad thing to do.
One after the other lap passed, and I was sucked into the exquisite fight between the two leaders of the race. And it was at that moment it became clear to me who would win. I looked at the scoreboard, and the drivers’ lap times, and how they only differed a few seconds. Which doesn’t seem like much, but at that high speed, at that level of skill, every second counts. And the one who would win the race would be the one with the most precise attention to detail.
That’s what I wanted to talk about, the importance of detail. In this article, I go through three parts. The first is about the trade-off when focussing on details, which for me was the reason I believed focussing on details was a bad thing to do. The second part is about why we should focus on details, and the third part is on the change these details will make to our lives.
Part One: The Trade-Off
All this time I’ve been lying to myself. I always believed that focusing on details was the same as perfectionism. Which meant that if I focused on details it meant that I was perfectionistic. So most of the time I would skip over-focusing on details, going for “good enough”. This is a good thing to do because being perfectionistic can be damaging to our creativity and enjoyment of life in general.
If an artist is perfectionistic it can result in him, or her, never putting out his work. Constantly going over the details, into eternity, he will be highly dissatisfied with his life. This I see as a waste of potential. Getting sucked into a project so much that you never finish it, or never even put it out into the world is a waste of your energy. Why do I think this? Because I believe half of the beauty of creation is found in the sharing of it.
A painting is beautiful, but if no one sees it then no one would know it’s beautiful. Only the artist would know this. And considering that most artists are never satisfied with their work, the painting might as well wither away in a dusty room never appreciated for its beauty.
Not just that, but if we want every detail of our lives to be perfect we can never truly enjoy life. If you have all the basics in life you need, like a roof over your head, food and water on the table, enough money to go by, friends, family, and the ability to do something that you love, there isn’t anything to worry about. Yet if we start to focus on the details too much, and try to control them we can start noticing that one of our friends is paying less attention to us, or that we don’t particularly like what we are eating for diner that day.
Both of these examples are examples of seeing life as a perfectionist. Trying to control life’s details, and trying to get everything ‘perfect’. But on that Sunday afternoon, I learned that: perfectionism isn’t the same as focusing on details.
You see what I learned from these Formula One teams is that it is all about the details. Yet they do not stop or quit when the details aren’t perfect. For these drivers, the smallest of adjustments in weight, tires, the timing of the pitstop, speed of the pitstop, aerodynamic, and much more is important to get to the top of the leader board. To get ahead by seconds. That’s their goal. Most of the time they will never get ahead by laps, it’s just impossible. But seconds ahead, that’s doable, and that’s how they win. By seconds, sometimes by minutes, but never by laps, or tens of minutes.
Yet they never quit when one of the details isn’t just perfect. In this particular race, Max Verstappen was having a tough time with his grip on the track. That’s a minor detail that can cause a lot of time lost over the entire race. If he would have been a perfectionist he might have quit racing just to fix that detail. He could have used the argument that not everything was perfect. He didn’t though. He continued the race, and ended up second, almost first. He knew the importance of this detail, but he also knew how to work around it.
“Perfectionism is trying to control every aspect to get everything “perfect”. Focusing on details is trying to control every aspect to get the best result at that particular moment in time.”
See the difference there? Perfectionism wants everything to be perfect, this can cause a lot of dissatisfaction. Focusing on details will improve you over time, make you aware of the smallest potential growth, yet don’t make you dissatisfied when one of the details is off.
That’s the trade-off you have to be aware of. Focusing on details is great, but it can quickly turn into perfectionism, which makes you postpone, and feel unsatisfied. So focus on details, without becoming a perfectionist. Why do this?
Part Two: The Importance of Details
Having said that, I have come to see the light on this matter. That yes I was right, focusing too much on details will lead to perfectionism, which is an unsatisfied state to live in. Yet focusing on details is almost inevitable, and will bring you massive satisfaction in life.
To once more refer to the Formula One drivers, they focus on the smallest details, if there’s a tiny stone stuck in their tires they might feel that something is off. This might sound perfectionistic to you, but it is not. They live for this, they get excited by this. Not because of the stone that’s stuck inside their tires, but to get everything slightly better each race, or each season. It’s what makes them come to life.
Countless engineers are trying to perfect the aerodynamics of the car so that the friction caused by the air is minimum. There is an entire team that’s training each day to replace the tires with new ones as quickly as possible. Coming down to the slightest of seconds. There is even an entire team focused on calculating the right time to go for a pitstop. Let alone the driver himself who has to perfect every corner to cut off time to the driver in front, or trying to increase his advantage.
They don’t just focus on the details, they live for the details. It makes them come to life, it makes them the best on the planet. That’s the beauty and the importance of focusing on the details. It’s not just important for those wanting to be the best in some particular job or branch. It’s not just for athletes it’s for all of us.
“Focussing on details makes us aware of our surroundings, and therefore invites us in to appreciate its beauty and make even a dull situation exciting.”
You might not want to focus on every detail in your job to become the best at it. That’s okay, but there’s always some part of your life where you want to focus on every detail. It’s oftentimes the part that makes you come to life. Your spark, or passion. It could be photography, drawing, medicine, psychology, cooking, time management, watching Netflix, or countless other examples. It’s this part of your life that teaches you to appreciate the details.
I believe that one of the ways to a happy life is through focusing and appreciating all the details of life. The slightest of changes make the biggest impacts over the long run. By focusing on details we stop getting caught into striving for more and more. Focusing on details doesn’t mean you want more and more money. What it means is that you get more out of every penny you have. It doesn’t mean getting the best result on the planet, it means trying to get the best result out of what you are doing.
A funny example occurred to me when I was working at my side job. I am a grocery delivery when I am not writing. But focussing on the details has allowed me to get a lot of joy out of doing this as well. Why? Because I love to focus on the details of delivering groceries. I try to cut off time each stop, or I try to do everything as efficiently as possible. Or other times I try to be as polite and kind as possible to the customer. These are all details to the larger picture, which is just delivering groceries. It isn’t a fancy job, yet focusing on the way I carry the grocery bags, or sort my car is highly satisfying to me. And to be honest with you, every detail I focus on pays off. It cuts off time, and that time is earned back by having longer breaks or being able to quit before my end time.
Every detail matters. It’s not perfectionism. It’s an exciting way to look at the world. A way to spark more curiosity, experimentation, change, and appreciation in your life. Even a 1% difference each day can cause a massive change over an entire year.
Part Three: The Change in Our Lives
Now, what can details change in our lives? Why should we focus on details, when we can so easily lose ourselves in them and become dissatisfied with life, instead of satisfied. Often the best of things in life are on the edge of losing oneself. Love for example is amazing, yet can be incredibly damaging if we lose ourselves in it. Or pursuing your long-cherished dream is most likely gonna be amazing, but it also carries a lot of uncertainty and suffering with it.
All these things are amazing experiences in our lives, yet they are always on the very edge of sanity and insanity. That’s what makes them beautiful. They are balanced. Right in the middle. The same goes for focusing on the details. On one side you have sanity, of only focusing on the larger picture of your life, on the other you have perfectionism where you are never satisfied with life because the details aren’t just right. But focussing on the details is right in the middle of the two.
Focusing on life’s details doesn’t disregard the larger picture, it doesn’t shush away the fact that you need to make money even though you want to pursue your dream job. Instead, it invites it in and finds details, smaller ways to cut corners so you have to do less of what you don’t like and focus more on what you do like. So you start to figure out ways to cut back on your costs of living, you buy fewer clothes, less expensive food, live more frugal. These are details, that allow you to feel more satisfied in the bigger picture of life because they allow you to pursue your dream more and more.
Details might seem useless, but think of your life, if you enjoy your diner tonight, then enjoy doing the dishes, and then enjoy watching some Netflix, and taking a shower, and so on, you’ll see that all these details end up to create a wonderful experience of life.
“It’s not about the entire painting, it’s about how much you enjoy the details of that painting which determines the quality of the entire painting. And so your life becomes beautiful if you learn to enjoy its details.“
That’s the beauty of details. It allows you to draw inspiration, creativity, enjoyment, love, peace, wisdom, and appreciation from the minute details. A flower can bring you intense joy, a piece of broccoli in your diner can have an intense flavor and amazing texture if you take the time to focus on it. All these minor details add up. They might seem useless in the long run of life, but they aren’t. They allow you to enjoy this very moment, and then the next, and the next, and the next. That string of enjoyments will slowly fill your life, making your life one big experience of enjoyment.
Did I learn all this from just watching a Formula One race? Yes I did. How? Because I focused on the detail of my life. I focused solely on watching the Formula One race, and that opened me up to understand the lesson I could draw from it. This is what makes me come to life, this is what I live for. To see life’s beauty in everything. The minute, and the extravagant. In the minutes and the years.
Focussing on details opens you up to life. Just like falling in love does. You no longer just see a person, you see all the details that make this person beautiful. You start to see the tiny freckle underneath their left eye. Or the way they smile when they see a dog. These are the details that make you appreciate this person. That’s why it is so hard to tell someone why you love them. It’s not some all-encompassing answers, it’s many details together that make this person beautiful.
So, what details in life do you appreciate? What details make you come to life? What details simply make you say. Today I Lived? I made the most of it.