There Are No Traffic Jams on the Extra Mile

The extra mile. It's a term used so often it's almost considered cliche. It is thrown around in circles, especially being applied to those that are willing to lend a helping hand. But what does it mean? And if so many people are willing to go there, then why is it that "there are no traffic jams on the extra mile". This saying has been attributed to several people, I believe Roger Staubach, the great Dallas Cowboys quarterback is normally given the credit.

Origin of the "Extra Mile"

The origins of the extra mile can be found in scripture. In the Bible, Jesus gives his famous "Sermon on the Mount", in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus challenges common thought in this lecture as he tells us to "turn the other cheek". He also says that if someone asks for your shirt, you should give him your coat as well. And just before he tells us we have to love our enemies, he drops this little statement in verse 41:

"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."

Now, that may sound strange to us. Actually, all of these commands seem strange in the 21st century. But understand the context of this. Rome was an occupying force at this time. A Roman soldier could compel any citizen to carry his gear for one mile. This act became so treacherous that the Jewish people were incredulous about the demands of these soldiers. And then, here comes this Jesus character who tells them not only to carry the soldier's gear for a mile but go ahead and take it another one. And with a smile on your face as well! (actually, I added that last part).

Going the Extra Mile is Not Easy

As you can see, going the extra mile is not easy. It's much more than just giving an extra tip to your waitress or staying a few minutes late to help get a project done.

It's much more than being a 110% person. You know how we often say "he or she gave 110%". That's a great compliment. It's great that someone is willing to do that. But let's face it. 110% is not going an extra mile. An extra mile is 200%!!!

Often when we are giving 110%, it's because it is something we really want to do. It is something we enjoy doing. So why not give extra? If we are good at it and enjoy it... then it isn't really a big deal.

Going the extra mile means doing something you don't want to do. It means swallowing your pride and doing the job that no one else wants. It's about shoving your ego aside and doing what is right, and even more. It's not just correcting the customer's bill, but it's also giving them a coupon for a free service the next time. And it's not just about repairing what you broke, it's about replacing it with something even better.

In practice

Funny side story. A friend of mine had his mailbox plowed over on Thanksgiving Day. He ran out of his house but was too late to see the driver that destroyed it. A few minutes later, a car came back down the street. The driver apologized profusely and offered to replace the mailbox. My friend told her that he had wanted to upgrade the box for a while, so this was a good excuse. The driver didn't just pay him for the value of the box she destroyed. She paid the cost to replace it with a nicer mailbox. That's a nice example of going the extra mile.

Law of Overcompensation

Brian Tracy explains that the "Law of Overcompensation" says that we should "always do more than is expected". He teaches that we should always do more than we're paid for. He says that "your success in life will be in direct proportion to what you do after you do what you are expected to do".

What this says to me is that if we do much more than is expected of us, much more will be given back to us.

He says "If you want to be successful, you should always go the extra mile." The more you put in above what you are expected to do, the more successful you will be. And, since most people just do what is necessary (if that), you will truly stand out if you go above and beyond what is expected of you.

Going the extra mile should almost always guarantee success!!

Application Tips

So how do you put this to work? It's actually quite simple. START!

Here are a few practical ideas:

  • Look at the day-to-day things that you do that you just "check the box". You know those things. Perhaps it's sweeping the behind the counter. Or maybe it's a daily status report to your boss. Or perhaps you greet everyone that comes into your place of business. Look at each of these daily tasks and think about how you can do DOUBLE what is expected of you.
  • Do you have goals? Are they measurable? (They should be, if not, let's talk about that). How many times do you think about getting just to the minimal standard to attain the goal? What would happen if you strove to far exceed every goal? I once led a team that was achieving their service levels only 65% of the time. What's more is that they were okay with it. I challenged them to achieve 90%. I asked them what it would look like if we could do that. (Fewer complaints, more time off, less late nights). Once we had a picture of what that would look like, we raised attainment to 95%. The team went above and beyond once they had a vision of a better state.
  • Do you interact with customers? How can you change your interaction with them such that they would be TWICE as happy with your company? What would that look like? Is it simply greeting them with a smile? Perhaps you need to show them exactly what they need. Maybe you need to offer suggestions to get better use of your product.

Go that extra mile today

There's no better time to start than today. Do you want some help figuring out how to do that? Schedule some time with me and we'll put together a plan.

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