Success is all in the details

A lot of management literature since the turn of the millennium has focused on working towards ambitious end results—Big Hairy Audacious Goals, to use a term coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last. Business leaders like Google co-founder Larry Page often preach about how they set out to change the world. But these are retroactive narratives that we impose on our life stories after the fact. Success is more often built on the little things we do on a daily basis that help us achieve the more immediate objective, and then the next one after that, this essay argues persuasively. NFL coach Bill Walsh urged his players to aspire to what he called the Standard of Performance rather than a Super Bowl championship. The Super Bowl came anyway.