I’m writing today to ask you a very important question upon which things in your life will greatly depend in yet unseen ways. Are you ready? Here it is:
Have you ever been bitten by an elephant?
Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most of you reading this answered no to that question. But let me ask you another one:
Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito?
I’m going to assume everyone’s answer for this one is yes. And do you want to know why? Because it’s always the small stuff that will get you.
This silly little question exercise is something that the character Jones uses in my book The Noticer. It’s all part of a larger lesson on something that I think is of vital importance for everyone to learn—how to make “going the extra mile” your normal.
We always hear the phrase “go the extra mile,” but what exactly does it mean? Well, there are two factors that must become part of your behavior if you want that phrase to apply to you:
1. Sweat the small stuff (the “mosquitoes” of life).
Many people ignore the small stuff (I’m sure you’ve heard the common expression, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”) and claim they have their eye on the big picture. But what they fail to understand is that the small stuff is what makes up the larger picture of our lives.
The beautiful masterpiece you want your life to be is composed of tiny brush strokes, little actions and choices, that happen day after day, hour after hour, and even minute after minute.
Paying attention to the small stuff means attending to the people, events, and relationships in your life with an uncommon attention to detail. It means consistently doing the second step of going the extra mile:
2. Consistently doing more than is expected of you.
I met Julius Irving, Dr. J, one time. When we shook hands, I promise that his fingers wrapped around my palm five or six times…they were the biggest things I’ve seen in my life! I asked him, “How did you go from being Julius Irving to being Dr. J?”
His answer was simple. He told me, “I have always demanded more of myself than anyone else could have ever expected.”
No one expected him to do the things he did, to practice like he did, to stay as late and work as hard as he did. He demanded it of himself. He demanded more than anyone could have ever expected.
Now, I know most of us aren’t professional basketball players, but this can easily be applied to all areas of life, no matter what you do or who you are. If you demanded more of yourself than anyone else could ever expect, what would your life be like? Who would you become?
If you demanded more of yourself than anyone else could ever expect, how would you act? What would you do? How would you feel? Can you picture it? Going the extra mile—no matter what—starts with you and your expectations for yourself.
So what expectations do you have for yourself right now? What expectations do you have for yourself as a parent? What expectations do you have for yourself as a spouse? As a businessperson or as a friend? What expectations do you have for yourself as a citizen in your community and country? What are some new expectations you could develop that will make you not only better, but will also make you truly exceptional in each of these areas?
Think about it…are you ready to go the extra mile? If so, how are you going to do so?