Earlier this month, I walked into my office and picked up a five-page document that had been placed in my inbox by one of my employees. The pages were stapled together and the first thing I noticed was that only one end of the staple had gone through the stack of papers, while the other end was crushed and clumped together on top of the first page. This was the third time in two weeks that I was given a document that had a staple that was crushed on one end.
Needless to say, I was very irritated. My initial thought was, “I can’t believe my employees are this reckless. If they are incapable of stapling a simple document, how can they be expected to provide premium services to my clients?” Then I thought, “I’m going to solve this problem right now.”
I immediately walked over to my computer, navigated to Google.com, and typed in “powercrown staples.” I clicked on a link for Amazon.com and was able to quickly find what I was looking for: (1) the Stanley Bostitch B8 Desktop Stapler with Built-In Staple Remover; and (2) the Stanley Bostitch B8 1/4” PowerCrown Staples. I ordered 11 new D8 Desktop Staplers and 16 boxes of B8 1/4” PowerCrown staples. (A Stanley Bostitch B8 Desktop Stapler costs twice as much as a regular stapler.)
Do you know what a PowerCrown staple is? It’s a staple that is made with a top that is bent in the shape of the roof of a house (rather than a straight line). The staple looks like this:
PowerCrown staples are superior to regular staples because when pressure is placed on the staple by the stapler, the staple flexes and then shoots down into the paper (rather than simply being pushed into the paper). The counter-resistance that is created when pressure is placed on the crown of the staple is what drives the staple into the paper. The force that is generated by a PowerCrown staple causes both ends of the staple to forcibly pierce through the paper. With regular staples, even a few pages of paper can provide enough resistance to, at times, stop one end of the staple from piercing through the paper.
When the package of new staplers and PowerCrown staples arrived at my office, I handed them out to my staff and told them they were forbidden from ever using a regular stapler again.
After the death of Steve Jobs (the co-founder of Apple and the visionary creator of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes), I read a story that was posted on the internet by Vic Gundotra, an employee of Google. Here’s what Gundotra had to say about one of his experiences with Jobs:
One Sunday morning, January 6th, 2008 I was attending religious services when my cell phone vibrated. As discreetly as possible, I checked the phone and noticed that my phone said “Caller ID unknown.” I chose to ignore.
After services, as I was walking to my car with my family, I checked my cell phone messages. The message left was from Steve Jobs. “Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss” it said.
Before I even reached my car, I called Steve Jobs back. I was responsible for all mobile applications at Google, and in that role, had regular dealings with Steve. It was one of the perks of the job.
“Hey Steve – this is Vic,” I said. “I’m sorry I didn’t answer your call earlier. I was in religious services, and the caller ID said unknown, so I didn’t pick up.”
Steve laughed. He said, “Vic, unless the Caller ID said ‘GOD,’ you should never pick up during services.”
I laughed nervously. After all, while it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?
“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow” said Steve.
“I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”
Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject “Icon Ambulance.” The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon.
A day or two after I read the story about Jobs wanting to change the yellow gradient in the second O in Google, I read an article that described how Jobs wanted the icons on the iPhone to look “so delicious that people will want to lick them off their phones.” After I finished reading the article, I looked closely at the icons on my iPhone. They looked like brightly-colored little pieces of candy. I had never noticed that before. If you own an iPhone, take a close look at the different shades of color in each icon and you’ll see the attention to detail that went into the development of each and every one of them.
In the book, “The Slight EDGE, Secret to a Successful Life,” the author, Jeff Olson, expands upon a concept in business known as the Principle of the Slight Edge. This particular principle stands for the proposition that the most successful people in all aspects of life – business, health, etc. – are always seeking out small ways in which they can improve themselves (ever so slightly).
A business person who is ten times more successful than his (or her) colleague is not ten times smarter or ten times more gifted. That person’s success is often due to the person’s desire and effort to constantly make slight improvements in knowledge, attitude, habits, and behavior. Over time, slight-edge improvements can have a significantly compounding effect on the skills and capabilities of a person.
I have tried to practice the Principle of the Slight Edge ever since I learned about it over 20 years ago. That’s why I had to order the new staplers and staples. I want all of the documents that are generated from my office to be flawless – no bent staples, no smudges on the paper, no faded print. It’s obvious from the stories about Steve Jobs that he was obsessive about practicing this particular principle.
As devout Catholics, we all know that we were created to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to spend all eternity with Him in Heaven. We don’t have to be ten times holier or ten times smarter than others, but we do need to practice the Principle of the Slight Edge in our everyday spiritual life. That means we have to constantly work at developing new spiritual habits and behaviors, such as praying a morning offering every day when we get out of bed, performing individual acts of charity every day, and seeking to enhance our relationship with our Savior in simple ways on a daily basis.
Whether they knew it or not, the saints practiced the Principle of the Slight Edge in everything they did. If we’re serious about spending eternity with them and our Creator, we need to seek out new ways in which we can know, love, and serve God every single day.