My father always told me, “if you keep track of the nickels and dimes, the dollars take care of themselves.” He is a frugal man who built a career as an accountant in the IRS so I can assure you he meant this quite literally. However this is a saying I think about often in other contexts.

People in our line of work have large goals. They want to sell lots of a thing. They want to have lots of people using a thing. They want to conquer impressive technical challenges. But the key to achieving those large goals is to never focus on just the end result. It is to know the goal and then focus on the execution of relatively tiny details every single day. You have to fight to land every sale, every user, and every API. You have to care about outcomes that are orders of magnitude smaller than your final goal to have any chance of getting there.

I have always appreciated that the saying doesn’t include pennies. I suspect that is because it would make it less catchy. But accidental or not I appreciate that even a phrase intending to focus us on details recognizes that there really are some details too small to matter. There is some art to knowing which is which but my advice is to err on the side of caring about more details.

This consistent execution on the details is key to maintaining the trust of leadership and all the autonomy it entails. It turns out you don’t win games by watching the scoreboard; you win them by executing well.