How Small Details Make Incredible Differences

At 24 years of age, Mark Cuban was far from what many would call a success.

“I was living in a 3-bedroom apartment in Dallas. I didn’t have my own bedroom. I slept on the couch or floor depending on what time I got home. I had no closet. Instead, I had a pile that everyone knew was mine. My car had the usual hole in the floorboard, a ’77 FIAT X19 that burned a quart of oil that I couldn’t afford every week.”

Until that point, Cuban had been working exclusively in the service industry. His prospects were poor, and he was mostly coasting through life until Cuban landed a job with Your Business Software – the first software retail store in Dallas.

He was excited to start a job that may lead to a good career, but he was also concerned.

“I had never worked with an IBM PC in my life. Not a single time, and I’m going to be selling software for it.”

So Cuban decided to do his homework.

Each night, he would bring home a different software manual and read it – no matter how late it was. After weeks of reading the manuals, Cuban became the best salesperson on the team. He even knew more than his boss!

“Turns out not a lot of people ever bothered to RTFM (read the fricking manual), so people started thinking I knew my stuff.”

This small detail – reading the manual – turned out to be the defining characteristic that separated Cuban from everyone else; not just in the sales team, but also in the marketplace.

“I knew I would end up owning my own business someday, so I figured my challenge was to learn as much as anyone about all businesses. I believed that every job I took was me getting paid to learn about a new industry. I spent as much time as I could learning and reading everything about business I could get my hands on.” 

It wasn’t talent, luck, or a genius idea that took Cuban to the top – it was the small detail of reading the frickin' manual.

“Most people think it’s all about the idea. It’s not. Everyone has ideas. The hard part is doing the homework to know if the idea could work in the industry, then doing the preparation to be able to execute on the idea.” [1]


In our world of overloaded information and immediate gratification, the details get cast aside. We want big results; we want great information, and we want health, wealth, and happiness. 

And we want them right now.

But imagine the result you want - losing 10lbs, getting a degree, running a marathon, whatever - is represented by the number 1000.

The number 1000 is made up of one thousand individual 1s.

Taken alone, each 1 seems utterly insignificant. It doesn't even represent 1% of 1000! However, you need each and every 1 in order to get to the total number of 1000.

Every meal that you eat on your way to losing 10lbs matters.

Every hour of studying on your way to a degree matters.

Every training run on your way to a marathon matters. 

But the more you focus on "the 1000", the less you pay attention to all of the "1"s that must happen to achieve that 1000.

People who accomplish great things, focus on those 1s. That is why Mark Cuban read the frickin' manual. And that is why you must use your willpower to accomplish the small details that can lead to extraordinary success. 

To do that, though, you have to confront a powerful enemy – boredom.


In early November, 2014, I was doing research on a story published by the Washington Post. The Post claimed that you will get a more restful night's sleep if you start turning your lights off when the sun goes down.

As a researcher, I wanted to see what their source was on that so I could confirm that it was true. But they didn’t list it anywhere! Apparently they believed that the reader should just believe that what they said was true because they were the Washington Post. 

It was then that I realized that almost NOBODY, including major publications, cite their sources! I was outraged.

To me, this represented a total lack of respect by these publications for their audience. They did not think we were smart enough to care about the sources. So they took the easy way out.

I wanted to create something better. I wanted to adhere to a higher standard. So I had a higher purpose to get people information from reputable publications. Then I spent 2 full days citing every article I had ever written.

That small detail led to:

A higher email subscriber rate per visitor....

A higher number of social media shares per article...

A higher number of subscribers responding to the newsletter...

And more blogs and publications linking to my articles because I became their sources!

The list goes on.

Now Willpowered was distinct from 99% of other blogs out there that only write something based on the author’s opinion. Now the readers knew that I was adhering to a higher standard.

This one detail was the difference between me writing to you today and me having to go back to unfulfilling work. And I was able to accomplish it because I believed in the greater purpose behind why this small detail was necessary. 

When you find the higher purpose, you tap into a part of your willpower that researchers call Want PowerWant Power is the rush of energy that you feel when you read an inspiring story or watch a motivational video. [2]

It gives you a rush of willpower to do even the most boring of tasks – because you see the greater purpose behind why you are doing them.

So the next time you are tempted to quit, procrastinate or ignore one of your "1s", think about the greater purpose behind why you are on the journey toward your goal in the first place. 

Remember just how important each of those small details is, and how achieving them will help separate you from the people who deem them as unnecessary and boring. 

Then get ready to achieve extraordinary results. 


It is true what they say – there are no shortcuts to success. Great people achieve great things by focusing on the small details that add up to incredible results. They summon the willpower to read the frickin' manual.

Doing the small things can seem insignificant and even boring. But to get to the total result of 1000, you need to achieve each 1. If you can think of the greater purpose behind why you are journeying toward your goal and remember the value of each detail, you will make it much easier to find the willpower to achieve extraordinary results. 


  1. Cuban, M. (2013). How to win at the sport of business: If I can do it, you can do it.
  2. Segerstrom, S., Hardy, J., Evans, D., Winters, N., Wright, R. (2012). How motivation affects cardiovascular response: Mechanisms and applications. , (pp. 181-198). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, xiv, 424