As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of freedom. That is probably one of the reasons people feel attracted to this kind of life – the idea of being able to steer your own course and make decision independently.
But this kind of freedom has a flip side – you have to make calls on basically everything. Often, there is no one else – you are the guy in charge and you have to make the choices that no one else can make for you.
There is plenty of research out there that points to an overwhelming conclusion: when faced with too many choices, we break down and resort to “the default”. When we panic, we freeze – meaning we don’t choose at all.
When it comes to making decisions, things are pretty much the same. When there are too many factors to consider (like when you’re starting up a business), the temptation is huge to put off making choices or resort to the default.
Now, I am all for getting things done quickly and being as efficient as possible and often the default option can be the best one. I have learnt to make decisions quickly, by relying on gut instinct as much as hard data.
To trust the wisdom of the crowd or rely on others’ input. And to quickly scan the environment and – say – ask for a few opinions when I need to make a hard call.
But every so often it pays to be a little obsessive. Steve Jobs was more than a little obsessive. Santiago Calatrava is. And no doubt the person that first coined the phrase “the devil is in the details” was.
In fact, probably everyone who has had a certain amount of success in life was obsessive about certain things. Like quality. Or efficiency. Or getting things done.
Many years ago, we had a shoe repair shop close to our house. The owner was Spanish, but looked Italian, dressed Italian and even spoke with a slight Italian-sounding accent. The man was obsessive about shoes. I am not talking merely enthusiastic. No – I am talking outright obsessive. He could tell you everything about where the leather for his shoes came from, why this particular type of sole was better than another and how to care for shoes so they last for years and years. Why it was important to have several types of shoes, in different colors and what to combine with which color suit and tie. When to go formal and when you could probably get away with a little fantasy on the side.
I absolutely loved spending time there, in this little shop on the corner. I loved talking about shoes, and became a loyal customer of his for many years. His obsessiveness and attention to minute detail made me feel that – when it came to shoes – there was nobody better suited to advise me than this man.
I still love spending time with people who are a little obsessive. Who take the time to talk about the intricacies of their craft, and speak with passion. Who are out to make a difference, no matter how small or big. Who can’t seem to leave well enough alone, but are always looking for that extra bit.
Who refuse to compromise, or take the easy way out.
In today’s world of instant gratification, an emphasis on cost and what seems to be a never ending race to the bottom when it comes to purchasing patterns, the future seems bleak for those who put the emphasis on quality over quantity or profit.
But then again, Apple just released mind-boggling financial results on their earnings call. Perhaps, as Robert Frost once said “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” ?
Here is to the obsessive ones.