My childhood was filled with anecdotes and lessons that shaped my adult life and made me who I am today. In particular, my dad’s words had a profound effect on me, and I hope that I’m having a similar impact on my kids today. He possibly didn’t realise it then, but the stories he repetitively told me did eventually sink in.
Thank you, Dad.
Over the years, he instilled in me countless morals, but the one that sticks in the front of my mind today is this: Go the extra mile.
Growing up, my dad used to tell me, “If the coach asks you to run one mile, run two”. I’m not sure if he really meant that I should run the second mile, or if he meant it figuratively. Either way, I wanted to scream whenever I heard those words – I was usually too tired after the first mile to even contemplate going for the second.
Still, the principle set in: if you want to be different, then be different. Make the effort.
In my adult life, I’ve realised it is running that second mile that makes winners. If you do what everyone else does and just go the expected distance, you’ll be about as good as they are - average. But if you want to excel, if you really want to stand out, you have to take the extra step.
Often, the easiest way to be different is to do the things other people are unwilling to do. This isn’t about being the brightest or coming up with a clever idea. The principle is rooted in doing something extra, no matter how big or small.
Most of us were taught to send “Thank You” notes when someone gave us something or did something for us, but it’s surprising how many of us don’t do it. It’s expected that you’ll send a note after a job interview, yet one-third of candidates don’t. The same goes for sales meetings – people simply don’t follow up afterwards to thank the other party for their time.
These are missed opportunities, because by taking the extra step of sending a “Thank You” note, you’ll easily differentiate yourself from the crowd.
I have a friend who is a pro at saying “thank you”. After every dinner, lunch or meeting, he sends a simple SMS thanking the person for their time and enjoyable company. He even highlights key takeaways from the conversation. He is absolutely genuine in his motive, yet wows everyone by the gesture.
Again, it’s not rocket science, but what makes this so impressive is the fact that most people just don’t do it.
So, think about it. What can you do that other people don’t? Don’t stress over what it is - it can be simple, it can be small. What matters is that whatever it is, you do it. And, when you do, you’ll instantly be a little different from the rest of the pack.
When others aren’t willing to go the extra mile, be the one who is. Don’t limit yourself to behaving like everyone else, or by doing only the necessary to get by.
Every extra step you take is a step forward, and if you keep it up, you’ll soon be stepping out ahead of the rest. With persistence, that’s how you become special.
If this comes across as extra work - hard work - that’s because, sometimes, it is. There is no getting away from the fact, and this raises an important question for you to consider: is being different worth the effort? Or are you happy to settle for being just like everyone else – for being average?
Do you want to be distinctive, or distinctively average? The choice is yours.
Tommy Weir is CEO of EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.