The margin between success and failure is a thin one, And that line is not drawn by the implement we think. It is not talent, age, or experience. Attention to detail is the most useful tool in our kit.
Oh sure, those other things make a difference in the absolute performance. But, real success is achieving the most that our potential allows. And, in any endeavour, those who take care of the details succeed.
I think we all find it fascinating. At the top level, the difference in raw potential is minute. What is it that separates those who win from those who lose? Nine times out of ten, it is attention to detail.
Organizing ultramarathons of all kinds, I can tell you that the easiest races to organize are those with championship calibre fields. I don’t have people writing to ask for information that has been given to them 10 times already. We don’t line up at the starting line, and they did not realize they had to bring their own underwear. Championship level runners approach an event in a professional manner, and come prepared,.
The Barkely runners are one. They are among the best there are at what they do. And, if there is one characteristic that the best of them display, it is attention to detail. There is a lot of speculation as to why nearly all of the finishers have Phd’s. I can tell you. While one is a scholastic pursuit, and the other athletic; both are achieved by only a tiny percentage of those who try. And the difference between success and failure is attention to detail. I tell them something once, and they all know it. Which is a good thing. I never tell them twice. If they don’t pay attention, they pay the price.
Tonight, when I finally had the chance to sift thru the wealth of data in this race… 19,000 runners over (already) 40 days is an unbelievable richness of data, I went searching for the patterns that I knew I would find. It wasn’t any real analysis, there wasn’t that much time. Just sitting here and letting the numbers flow in front of me and seeing what caught my eye.
And you know what I saw? The evidence of a laxity in the details has been filtering its way to the bottom. And the evidence of attention to detail is rising to the top. The most obvious; lumping your runs over multiple days into single entries. Right behind that, I am certain, even tho there wasn’t any way to check for it, but I would bet that the more failed entries a person has made, the lower you can expect to find them. Does lumping your runs make them shorter? Of course not. But it belies an attitude and approach that does not lead to success. If you are slack in one place, you will be slack in others.
I had already seen some of this. When a person finishes, I send them an e-mail the next day asking if they want a medal or a buckle. The first 41 finishers answered right away. After 271 finishers the percentage of responses is dropping. And I am sure it will drop for the remainder of the event.
Why is this important? Because it is so easy. And because the person who benefits is you! We have a different race starting next week. The Heart of the South. It is somewhat like this race, except there is nothing virtual about it. We will drop them off of buses in Arkansas, and they have 10 days to reach their cars in Georgia. In between there is no assistance whatsoever. They will not be sleeping in their own beds. There is a good chance they will not be sleeping in any bed at all, Needless to say, they could use all the information they can get, And I have already sent out some information sheets. In the first one, there was a question requiring a response right in the middle. it was not buried by accident. I can look at the ones who did not respond, and be sure they also failed to read the information around the question, information they will desperately need in a little over a week… but there will be no one to ask. They will be the same ones who have to be picked up off the road by the meat wagon.
Not only are you the one who benefits by attention to detail, you are also the one that suffers if you don’t take care of business. You are the one who cannot get your miles entered. You are the one who did not look at the edit report, and does not understand why your miles did not post. You are the one who thinks rules have suddenly appeared, that you had never heard about, because you never looked to see the parameters of the event to begin with. You are the one who stops 22 kilometers from the finish line, because you failed to make sure even the length of the event!
But, the beauty of this simple trick that bridges the gap between success and failure, is that it is nothing more than a habit. You do not have to be young, or gifted. You simply have to harbour the desire to perform to the same standards as the champions. Because champions take care of the details. We do not all have the tools to be champions as runners. But, we can take pride in how we go about our business. And the habits that bring us personal success at something we are not gifted at,will bring absolute success at the things we do have talent for.
So, it is up to you. Which would you rather pay; attention to the details or the price?