A Brave New “Detail-oriented” World

I struggle with the small things. My brain tends to focus much more on the big picture or overall plans rather than all of the little things that go into make something happen. There just isn’t enough patience in me to get proactive about details, yet somehow I’ve always been stuck in jobs that require a great deal of attention to them. Administration is almost completely dependent on being detail-oriented, and yet it is something I have always struggled with in both my personal and professional lives.

Fortunately, I am also one of those people who is able to think quickly on his feet and react to things in such a way that it looks like I was always on top of things from the beginning. I am typically able to do the work of two or three people, partly because I’m just very fast at getting things done, and partly because my anti-social tendencies prevents me from wasting large amounts of time conversing with others rather than getting my work done. My goal for each and every work day is to make sure that there is no reason for anyone to ask me to stay past the prescribed end of business.

As with many of my articles, my inspiration for writing this has to do with something that happened to me today. I was lucky in that it was discovered in a way that will likely prevent a ridiculous amount of inconvenience, but it’s also another example of how not checking into the details of things comes around to bite me on occasion. It’s amazing how close I always come to some kind of minor disaster, only to have some sort of saving grace stave off bad things at the last moment.

I own a very powerful sport bike which I occasionally ride to work. Recent life circumstances have prevented me from really partaking in that activity, so I decided to ride into work today. Having many years of experience with motorcycles, I knew there were some regular maintenance items I needed to take care of after not having ridden it for a while. I checked the tire pressures and cleaned the chain and generally looked the bike over for anything out of the ordinary.

Of course, like many things that require catching a lot of details, I missed one of the more important things that is actually much easier to do on my bike than on many because it actually has a built in meter for it: the battery. Like so many times before, I simply got up this morning, started the bike and rode off to work. Nothing unusual at all for the entire ride, and it was even a pleasant temperature for the safety gear I was wearing.

I got into work and was coasting in neutral to get ready to park my bike and all of a sudden the engine turned off. That’s weird, I thought. With so much experience riding and working on bikes, my immediate thought was the battery since bikes don’t have the same kind of charging system that cars do and when the battery dies many times the bike won’t run. Like I said, the bike has a built in voltmeter so I switched over to it and confirmed it: 10.5 volts. A fully charged battery sits at around 12.3.

My first thought after that was the fear that maybe the charging system was not working and that I would end up having to replace it, but I started the bike again and verified that charging voltage: 14.3. That was awesome because it means I likely just need a new battery. Even better, it might just mean that the battery was just drained down too far after sitting for so long without any charging, and maybe I can get away with just riding it a few times to get it back to normal. Either way, it’s a simple fix that isn’t exorbitantly expensive and not too much of a pain to do myself.

The point of the story is partly to share my experience, but also to point out that many of the things in our lives end up happening to us because we just don’t pay attention to the little details. That situation could have ended up being far more inconvenient, or even dangerous, if my bike decided to turn off in the middle of the freeway and just wouldn’t start anymore. A risk that could have been completely mitigated if I was just a bit more attentive to the small stuff.

Unfortunately, this is how it is in most of the things in my life. Little details missed that end up causing me more headache later on than if I just caught it in the first place. I’m not sure what it is about me that prevents me from being able to slow down and really focus on details, but it is a constant challenge. I truly believe that it is only my time in the Marine Corps that allows me to function well in the various things I have to do. You can’t get away without at least a minimum level of attention to detail in that environment, so I think maybe that’s what balances me out.

I guess you can’t have everything…

What do you think about dealing with details? Are you the one everyone looks to when there’s something complicated to get done? Or do you struggle with just getting through a set of instructions? We are each uniquely different, and it’s ok if there are things we struggle with. This is why it’s important to have people in your life who are good at doing the things that you aren’t. No one can do it all on their own, and even if we are sometimes forced to do things we’re not good at we can lean on others to help us get through it.

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