If You Lack Attention to Detail, Don’t Read This

I make mistakes. When I do, they give me the squirms. Even the smallest misstep haunts me. I may, at times, be too hard on myself. If you, on the other hand, have ever justified a lack of attention to detail with the phrase, “Hey, we’re not doing brain surgery here, relax!”, I want you to immediately stop reading this and put a staple in your tongue.

I’m not saying an email with typos is the end of the world. But, if you regularly distribut mesages that you clerly havenot taken the tyme to proofreed, in my opinion it’s a symptom of your more calamitous incompetence. At the very least, your repeated lack of attention to detail is annoying and disrespectful. Like a “Swear Jar”, for people who don’t seem to have a discernible clue about the details to which they fail to attend, I think there should be an “Inattention Urn”. For each act of negligence, they deposit a “fine” in the form of a small amount of money and half of one eyebrow.

“Mistakes happen, you’re overreacting”. Sound like something you’ve said before? How’s that second staple in your tongue feeling?


Taking minor miscues more seriously is the best way to change behaviour and avoid the epic fails. Once a massive blunder has taken place, the damage is done, so punishment seems futile. Case in point: the debacle that took place at the 2017 Academy Awards.


I’m still having conversations with people about this event and I’m shocked when they say things like, “Actually, I just don’t care about the Oscars”, or, “It’s just an awards show.” If you’re running low on staples, check your tongue.

At the end of the live Oscar broadcast, after “La La Land” was erroneously awarded the Best Picture award, when, in fact, “Moonlight” was the rightful winner, I was furious! I started counting the number of people on stage. According to my tally, at least 49 people were in view and, thus, potentially irreparably harmed by this epic bungle.


I can’t even imagine what it would be like to: think I’ve just won an Oscar; deliver a gushing acceptance speech in front of millions of people on live TV; and then, still on live TV, find out that I didn’t win. Remember those squirms I mentioned above? I get them just thinking about it.

Winning an Oscar, especially Best Picture, is a rare honour. To be deprived of the proper level of recognition and acknowledgement in the ultimate spotlight of the Academy Awards when I actually DID win would be devastating. It should be a crime punishable by laws more harsh than an “Inattention Urn”.


Finally, if I were in the twilight of my celebrated career and will now be remembered for one of the biggest screw-ups in Oscar history, or for “throwing” my co-presenter “under the bus”, I would have difficulty sleeping at night.


While Warren Beatty handled the situation like an amateur MC making an awkward toast at his cousin’s wedding, the only reason he was even in that undeserving position was because of the carelessness of someone else.

It’s not my intention to vilify Brian Cullinan, the managing partner at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), who is said to have been responsible for the wrong envelope getting into Beatty’s hands. His anguish about the error must be monumental. But, he does play the leading role in framing my argument that a lack of attention to detail is always unacceptable.

You may be wondering why I’m so agitated about the emotional well-being of a group of people affected by a movie awards presentation when hundreds of thousands of people are hurt by terrorism, refugee crises, nuclear weapons threats, poverty, hunger, global warming, fentanyl overdoses, racism, misogyny, the real estate bubble, bank fees, political corruption, conflict in the Middle East, and fatal diseases.

Well, all of these things, yes, have a devastating impact on millions people around the world. Unfortunately, there is no solution that is easy and complete in immediately protecting people from these atrocities. The colossal mistake that happened at the Oscars, however, was one that could have been avoided entirely, with very little effort and zero casualties.

Think about that! In life, how often are you faced with a high-risk situation affecting many people and there is an immediate, easy and complete solution? It’s called “Attention to Detail”. It was written right there in the job description when you applied for the position.

On the flip side, I’m not saying we should shower praise upon people, or reward them with parades and trophies, when they do successfully attend to the details. It’s your responsibility in life to ensure that all the “t’s” are crossed and “i’s” are dotted. Be grateful not to have to speak with a mouth full of staples.

There is a place where this kind of celebration of the “little things” should be taking place (and is). It’s for people who have not been given the chance, or haven’t previously had the resources, to make small mistakes in achieving their personal goals and contributing to their community. I saw this first hand earlier this month at the “Taking Care of Business Breakfast” for Progress Place.


Supporting people living with mental illnesses, Progress Place works with businesses to create work opportunities as part of a recovery program that offers people hope, respect and personal development. I was very moved by the success stories I heard from participants, partners and stakeholders in their program. I’m a strong believer in supporting every individual in becoming a thriving member of his or her community. It’s not only for their benefit exclusively; it bolsters a strong society and culture for all of us.


For every person who may not have otherwise been given the opportunity to meet a deadline, create a presentation, mail important documents, stock shelves, or take a phone message, at Progress Place these are cumulative monumental achievements that are duly commemorated. 


As far as the rest of us are concerned, double-checking our emails for typos is the least we can do. C’mon, it’s not brain surgery.

You might also enjoy my weekly podcast, “Pick A Number”

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