Go the second mile!

If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that many of us would rather do less than is required. I think it is part of human nature to look for the easy way out of any situation. But, I don’t think there is any virtue in simply working harder. It makes more sense to work smarter. If you find yourself working long, hard hours, it may be because you have not taken the time to find a better way to do what you are doing. If you can find a way to do it better and more efficiently, then what would be wrong with that?

I once heard a story about Henry Ford that illustrates my point. It is said that Mr. Ford would sometimes go to a nearby park and ask several of the indigent men who were hanging around who was the laziest man in the park. They would all point to “John” and say that he was the laziest man they knew. Henry Ford would then offer John some money and food for his services. He wanted John to accompany him to his plant and give him some advice. When they arrived, Mr. Ford would show John what he was trying to do and then he would ask, “If you were in charge of this, how would you do it?” It is reported that John would always find the easier and simpler way to do a complicated task. Henry Ford once commented that John had made him a lot of money over the years!

That’s what I’m talking about. There is nothing wrong with working smarter, rather than just harder. But, it does require the ability to know how to look for certain things in order to go to a place you have not yet gone before. Some would call this going the “second mile.” I think that is an accurate term because it helps you to do things you have not done before in order to go to a place you have not yet been.

This situation happened to Elizabeth, one of my daughters. She once worked in a restaurant where her job was to open at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon and work until midnight. By the time she finished her paperwork at the end of her shift, it was 1:00 o’clock in the morning before she could leave. She worked that shift for many months.

Eventually she went to work for another restaurant whose scheduling was very different.
The first manager would open at 4:00 in the afternoon and work until 9:00 p.m. Then a second manager would come on at 8:00 p.m. and work until midnight. The two managers were both there from 8:00 till 9:00 as the shifts changed.

On one particular occasion, Elizabeth had opened at 4:00 o’clock as one of the managers and was all set to get off at 9:00. Unfortunately, the evening manager got sick and could not come in. When my daughter, Elizabeth, said that she was willing to stay and close at midnight, everyone almost fainted! They could hardly believe that she was willing to work a double shift and not only open the restaurant, but close it as well. She made light of it and said that she was happy to do it. People continued to talk about how unbelievable it was that someone would be able to do both shifts in the same day.

As my daughter and I were talking about it, she said, “Dad, I thought it was kind of funny! I worked from 4:00 till midnight for years! And, then, when my hours got cut way back at the other restaurant, I thought it was kind of ridiculous. It seemed like everybody was sort of ‘soft’ to me.” We both got a big laugh out of it, but I certainly learned a good lesson from my daughter’s frame of reference. Because she was looking at a job in a longer sense, when everything changed, it did not matter to her. She had already learned what it meant to go the second mile. She had learned what it meant to look for things that needed to be done. She ended up getting a raise and a promotion because of her work ethic and her ability to get the job done.

I also once heard Truitt Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, talking to a group of young men. He said, “If my job at this restaurant was to clean the bathrooms, I would be sure that the restrooms were the cleanest ones in town. These restrooms would be so clean that you could eat off of the floor!” Of course, he was exaggerating to make his point, but he wanted them to understand how important it is to do a good job wherever you work. He explained to the boys that if they would work hard and go the second mile, it would not be long before someone would take note of the great job they were doing and they would be promoted.

These are just simple concepts and all of us know them, yet isn’t it true that all of us can get “bent out of shape” when we feel like we have to do the least bit more than we are called to do? It just doesn’t make any sense to think that we will excel in a situation until we have learned to do more than is expected of us, whether it is working with someone from the park, or in a restaurant, or cleaning a restroom. No one ever became successful without learning to do more than was expected of him or her.

I don’t know what you are going through this week, but I hope you will look at things in a different light. Push yourself a little; do more than is expected of you. Go the second mile and watch what happens. You will be the winner for it in the long run!

Tip: Go the second mile

Have a great week! God bless you!

Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.
Personality Insights, Inc.