July 14, 2024

The surprising rewards of going the extra mile


Going the extra mile is most-commonly associated with the merits of hard work and extra effort. That’s only a partial understanding of the original idea.

Like many expressions, “going the extra mile” originates from a bible story. In Matthew, Jesus teaches his disciples the principles of humility and a servant heart when he says, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” More than giving extra effort, it is a call to do acts of service with the right attitude.

In that time, a Roman soldier had legal authority to compel any Jewish citizen to carry his gear for up to a mile. Jesus told them to willingly “go with him two” as a distinguishing act of service, with no expectation of an immediate reward.

There is power in that idea today.

How we interact in the workplace, the marketplace or on social media greatly determines our success there. Going the extra mile with the attitude of service opens up future circumstances, options or possibilities we may not see today.

A key to success

Napoleon Hill spent his life studying and writing about the keys to success. In his book The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement, he outlined a formula for going the extra mile and the benefits that can come from following this principle. The simple formula is this:

Quality + Quantity + Attitude = Compensation

Quality represents the service or helpfulness you give

Quantity represents what you do beyond expectations

Attitude is how your service is rendered

Compensation represents the unexpected rewards from your actions

Following this formula for engaging others can lead to surprising, unexpected results with a multiplying effect. They are laws of increased returns, compensation and influence, which Hill outlines. Here are some examples.


Hill shares a true story in the book about a department store clerk one rainy day. That day an elderly lady walked into the store. The clerk offered to help her, but she had only come in to get out of the rain. Instead of ignoring her, he brought her a chair. When the rain stopped, she thanked him and left. Two months later the owner received a letter from the lady asking him to send the clerk to Scotland to take orders to furnish an entire castle. It turned out she was Andrew Carnegie’s mother.

When the clerk left for Scotland, he had been made a partner in the department store. The other clerks could have gone the extra mile to serve the lady, but did not. His helpfulness, without any expectation of a reward, yielded a huge return for him and his employer.


Sometimes success can cause individuals or organizations to get lazy about going the extra mile. This can have negative results. One example is AT&T before deregulation. They had no reason to add value or reduce costs on long-distance customers until MCI, Sprint and others entered the market and did just that. After experiencing market loss and lost compensation, they were forced to reexamine their purpose for being in business: providing value to customers.


I have a Twitter connection named Robert Caruso who tweets under the handle @fondalo. One day while tweeting back and forth, the conversation turned to business. He asked how he could help me. Thirty minutes later we were talking on the phone and he had connected me with three of his business contacts. This is exceptional because rarely do online interactions turn to offline meetings for me. In fact, that was a first.

For Robert, it’s just part of what he does on social media. He went the extra mile to learn more about me and put me in touch with prospective business contacts that could help me. That act of service set him apart from the pack.

The multiplier effect

It’s easy to think going the extra mile is an old fashioned idea from a bygone era. But it’s quite the opposite. In his book Engage, Brian Solis notes, “Relationships, content and engagement are the new currency of the social economy.” Genuine acts of service can have a multiplier effect on the Social Web, where one seemingly insignificant interaction can start a ripple that creates amazing opportunities.

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