I have a friend that recently bought a new Samsung smart phone. Instead of enjoying his new phone, he was obsessing over the fact that the phone had a slight hissing noise on the receiving end of the phone.
The next day myself, the friend that just purchased a new phone and two other friends took a car together to go to a lecture. After greeting us, he insisted that we each take turns listening to his new phone to help him confirm that there was a hissing noise. He let each person listen to his phone and everyone gave the same response and expression “your crazy. What are you talking about?” I couldn’t hear anything. He insisted that I listen to the phone again, and he was right there was a very slight hissing noise. My other two friends had the same Samsung phone, so I also listened to their phones, and it was true, they didn’t have the same hissing noise.
My friend was correct, there was a hissing noise, but it was so slight that most people would never have noticed it, and even if there was a hissing noise, it wasn’t really worth doing anything about it. We buy all of our electronics in Hong Kong, so it basically takes 4 hours round trip, so it seemed ridiculous to take that trip to exchange the phone for a noise that was really unnoticeable.
I met this same friend over the weekend, and he proudly showed me that he exchanged the phone for a new one, and he proclaimed “this time there is no hissing”. He had me confirm that there was no hissing on his new phone, and he was right; no hissing. My friend is obsessive compulsive about everything. He notices a small wrinkle in his shirt and he insists that he has to go back home to change, he always hears slight little noises in every one’s car and tells them they need to get their car fixed, and he notices when the food has a little too much salt or not enough lemon.
However, his obsessive compulsiveness also manifests into some very tangible benefits. He is an excellent workout partner because he demands that you have the best posture and technique when doing an exercise. He also runs sourcing and quality control for a decent size American electronics company that does around 200 million dollars per year in sales. Before this job he had no experience in production, but has been very successful in running their operation in China. His keen eye for details is part of what makes him successful in this position. He frequently catches problems that even his senior QC engineers miss, and his QC people and his factory suppliers are terrified of him because they know that he will catch everything.
Sometimes he is a bit annoying, but I’m actually jealous of his obsessive compulsive tendencies and I try to learn from him in hopes that some of his OC rubs off on me.
Life is full of imperfections, so most people naturally accept imperfections. People are busy and for most people its not worth the time or energy to obsess over a small and unnoticeable stain in a shirt, or a small blemish on their computer.
However, humans also naturally gravitate towards things that seem perfect. We gravitate towards the carefully cultivated inside of a Ralph Lauren store that seems to perfectly emulate the aristocratic lifestyle. Everything from the lighting, to the colors, to the perfect order of how the clothes sit on the rack, are painstakingly and purposely devised to perfectly emulate a fantasy world.
Steve Job’s fanaticism for demanding absolute perfection are well documented. At times Steve Jobs could be ridiculous in his demands for perfection, but its also the reason that we love his products. There are of course smart phones made by Chinese brands that have the same specs as an iPhone or iPad and are 70% cheaper, but we still prefer our Apple branded products.