I was a Seaman Recruit (E-1) several weeks into my training at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey, when I learned a lifelong lesson that’s proved invaluable in business and beyond.
The day started off like any other with an early morning workout, breakfast and training. On the agenda that day was firearms training and everyone was excited to spend time at the range. After safety training, I lined up with the rest of my class for target practice. Prior to shooting weapons, we were required to remove our metal name tags from our shirts (for safety reasons). The training was a success and we headed to lunch to escape the summer heat and fuel up for the rest of the day.
At lunch, the drill instructors sat in the very front of the commissary at tables facing the recruits. Part of the anxiety was when we had to pass them to put our trays away and they would call out a recruit for something. I had never been called out before, but that was about to change.
As I got up with my tray, one of instructors barked out my last name – “Beebe!” I instantly froze— startled and humiliated as I stood there in silence wondering what I did wrong.
“Forget something?” he asked. I had no idea what he was talking about.
It felt like a lifetime as I racked my brain to figure out what I forgot. Suddenly, it sunk in. I replied “Sir, yes, Sir. I forgot to put my name tag back on.” At the moment, it felt like the end of world to me, but after I completed 20 push-ups and put my name tag back on, he said, “Pay attention to the details, you’ll need them to succeed!”
That’s just one of the many memorable lessons I learned during my military service and it’s one I believe that applies to all of us — whether it’s in our personal life or in business.
When you set out to do something, it’s important to know the big picture, the goals, and vision, but then it’s time to sketch out the details of your plan.
Major projects won’t take care of themselves and neither will the day-to-day details that get you to your goals. They can often be the make-it-or-break-it part of any endeavor.
Here are some of my top tips on paying attention to the details:
Have a clear vision and be able to communicate it. Most importantly, know “the why” behind your vision. If you can’t explain the why, it won’t work. Simon Sinek has more on this topic.
Make sure you have the right team in place. Do you have the right people with the specific skill sets required to successfully execute the project? People are the most important asset.
Have the right systems in place. Do you need software or other platforms to help track and communicate the progress of the project? Operations play an integral role in every project.
No matter what your role, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Great questions and missed details can come from anywhere/anyone. Speak up — it could make a huge difference in the success of the project.