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Driven by seeking out the details

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High achievers seek out the critical details that will set them apart from others.

Attention to detail and preparation help high achievers to perform to a high standard. They understand which details are really important - the mission critical details - and absolutely do not compromise on them.

Feeling prepared often underpins confidence. Katie Wiggins-Dohlvik and her colleagues studied the performance of surgeons during critical situations. They found that practice and preparation underpinned competence and confidence, which enabled high performance in critical situations.

World-class operators have an incredible attention to detail, possibly they always look for ways to improve. They constantly seek the next level. They see that they are not quite there yet, they haven’t reached perfection and there is more to get.

High achievers see those things because they look for them.

Their never-satisfied mentality drives them to challenge themselves harder. As they do so, they become aware of the subtleties that make a difference at the highest level. They understand what they must do to separate themselves from the competition.

This level of awareness doesn’t develop by chance. Nor is it a product of innate talent. As we dedicate ourselves to excelling in our field, we begin to notice the tiny details and focus on getting them right.

Anyone with an insatiable curiosity and a desire to become the best they can be is more likely to see these opportunities. Curiosity keeps us searching for more. Where does this curiosity come from?

Psychologist George Lowenstein suggests that curiosity can be viewed as a passion, with all the motivational intensity implied by the term. He also describes it as a passion for learning, an intrinsically motivated desire to understand and to master our environment.

High achievers do things that other people simply don’t do. They chase down tiny details. They go out of their way to understand the critical details that will set them apart. They are happy to invest significant time, energy and resources to ensure they nail these details.

There is a clear pattern. They do no compromise on standards or quality, nor on their core purpose.

It seems that world-class people are implicitly aware that if they do the things most people do, they will get the results that everyone else gets. Following that path will lead them to become ordinary, rather than extraordinary.

  • This article is adapted from How To Shine: Insights into Unlocking your Potential from Proven Winners by Simon Hartley (Capstone, £12.99)

Simon Hartley is a sports psychologist and performance coach who helps elite athletes to get their mental game right. Since 2005, he has applied the principles of sport psychology to business, education, healthcare and the charity sector.

How to focus on getting the detail right

  • Remember that compromises are driven by choice
  • Never compromise on the “core” or “quality”
  • To protect the quality, you will often need to make tough decisions
  • Take time to understand the crucial details that will set you apart
  • Make the effort to get the tiny things right - ultimately, it’s those tiny things that will make a big difference


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