Understandably, most of us believe that in order to accomplish something great, you need to do great things. Meaning, large important things.
There's a certain logic to this, but it doesn't fit with reality.
In the real world -- as contrasted with the ideal world constructed in human minds -- important outcomes often hinge on insignificant details.
For example, and as a progressive it's painful for me to think about this, if Hillary Clinton hadn't decided to set up a private email server as Secretary of State instead of relying on her government account, there's good reason to consider that she'd have been elected president in 2016 rather than Donald Trump.
There's a saying, "for want of a nail the kingdom was lost."
Something of great importance may depend on an apparently trivial detail. The saying comes from a longer proverb about a battle during which the loss of a nail in a horseshoe leads to the loss of a horse, which leads to the loss of the rider, which leads to the loss of the battle, which in turn leads to the loss of a whole kingdom.
This relates to chaos theory, a subject I find fascinating.
Basically it involves the sensitivity of large scale systems to minute changes in initial conditions that then multiply over time. Frequently this is referred to as the butterfly effect: a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, which creates a tiny atmospheric instability that eventually becomes a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today the United States women's soccer team lost to Sweden in a penalty shootout after the teams ended up scoreless after regular play and two extra time periods. A shootout is used to decide a winner.
One by one, players from each team alternate at trying to score from the penalty spot in front of the goal. It's tough for the goalkeeper to stop a shot at such short range, so there's a battle of wits between the player taking the shot and the goalkeeper trying to guess which way to lunge to try to stop the shot.
You can see the United States-Sweden penalty shootout in this 7:39 long YouTube video.
After a strong start by the US and Sweden, there were misses-by-a-mile by players from both teams. But what really struck my eye was the shot by a US player that bounced off a crossbar and the even more amazing failure of the US goalkeeper to prevent a goal that she seemed to have stopped, but which technology revealed just barely crossed the goal line.
Here's a screenshot from the video:
The ball crossed the goal line by the narrowest of margins before the US goalkeeper swatted it away on a second try after it rebounded following her first attempt to block it.
And that decided the match. Which ended the US women's team competition in the World Cup at the earliest stage ever and dashed their chance to win three World Cup championships in a row.
Such is life. Large outcomes often are determined by very small influences. Sure, the US team would have won if several players hadn't kicked the ball well over the net in the shootout. Those were big mistakes.
But I suspect that the image which will haunt the US team is the one above. How the soccer ball ended up in precisely the right location to give Sweden the victory after taking an unlucky (for the US) or lucky (for Sweden) bounce off of the goalkeeper's hands.