Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Devil Is In The Details (#MY Eng 19)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile' and 'silence is golden'.

Life is simple. Wake up, go to school or work, get your task done, eat, rest, chill out with family and friends, and sleep.

Simpler said than done, of course. Life is more complicated than it seems. Even the act of waking up requires some serious discipline. Sitting through a boring lecture or workshop requires mental focus and fortitude. Some of us even agonise for long periods on what to have for lunch (one of life's most difficult question, up there along with what to get the in-laws for Christmas and how many more Netflix series to binge tonight).

Plans in theory are easy to sketch out. But activities in practice? Ah, that's where trouble really starts, for even the best-laid plans don't always go according as planned...

* * *

That's because 'thinking' is the easy part. Actually 'doing' something is where the real challenge lies. Once we're in the thick of action, that's when complications start piling up. As people are wont to say, the devil is in the details.

Execution is harder than preparation. No matter how much we stare into crystal ball to scour the possible future time-lines, there's bound to be an unexpected wrinkle to our tasks.

Also, there's a tendency to underestimate the complexity of a task. Drafting outlines? Easy peasy. Setting deadlines? Like shooting fish in a barrel (another idiom!).

Every task seems like a done deal when the load is split and shared between a group of like-minded folks. Two heads better than one, eh? Team work makes the dream work, right? Nonsense. More often than not, too many cooks spoil the broth (another idiom!). The trouble with having a committee is that no one ever takes full responsibility and accountability - in fact, that's probably the whole point of forming the committee...

Everyone enjoys making plans - whether it's a work project or an anniversary party. But when it comes to figuring out the details, everyone suddenly starts to back away with lame excuses ranging from 'don't have an eye for detail' and 'more of an ideas person'. Look, anyone can think brainstorm bright 'ideas'. There's no real skill in that. Execution is everything. Details matter because that's the part which makes or breaks any plan works.

So why do some people shy away from details? Because they're lazy. Incompetent. Out of their depth. There's no two ways about it. They're not people of action, just people with 101 useless theoritical ideas that can't work in practice.

* * *

But perhaps the greatest irony is how people who can't see the devil in the details are fond of seeing and painting themselves as angels. As in, the most brilliant of minds get to stay up in the clouds, while the mindless minions get down in the trenches doing the dirty work (another idiom!). How devilish indeed. Hiding their own flaws behind a veneer of supremacy.

As another idiom goes: idle hands are the devil's playground. Yes, the devil may be in the details. But the worst devil is the one that sits back, watches you from afar, and barks away all kinds of nonsensical orders, while you do all their dirty work...

No comments :

Post a Comment