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HABITS OF GOING THE EXTRA MILE
Napoleon Hill spent most of his life studying the most successful entrepreneurs in American history. He analysed men like Ford, Edison and Carnegie at length. He concluded that success followed predictable and distinct patterns of behaviour. He suggested that all men and women have similar options open to them. He argued that great success and achievement were available to any and all who would choose to follow certain requirements which he spelled out in his many books.
Mr Hill was the architect of the philosophy of success. He was a pioneer and an original thinker. Many books and articles have copied his ideas, but he remains the master. Of all the great human accomplishments in the 20th century, the judgement of history will inevitably rank the commentaries of Napoleon Hill among them.
I hope you will gain some small benefit from this section.
However, as you read through the article, it will become obvious it was well before the time of equality of the sexes. Just bear with this anachronism.
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The pot of gold at the “End of the rainbow” is not a mere fairy tale! The end of that extra mile is the spot where the rainbow ends, and that is where the pot of gold is hidden.
Few people ever catch up with the “end of the rainbow”. When one gets to where he thought the rainbow ended he finds it is still far in the distance. The trouble with most of us is that we do not know how to follow rainbows. Those who know the secret know that the end of the rainbow can be reached only by going the extra mile.
Late one afternoon, some forty-five years ago, William, C. Durant, the founder of General Motors, walked into his bank after banking hours, and asked for some favour which in the ordinary course of business should have been requested during banking hours.
The man who granted the favour was Carol Downes, an under official of the bank. He not only served Mr Durant with efficiency, but he went the Extra Mile and added courtesy to the service. He made Mr Durant feel that it was a real pleasure to serve him. The incident seems trivial, and of itself it was of little importance. Unknown to Mr Downes, this courtesy was destined to have repercussions of a far-reaching nature.
The next day Mr Durant asked Downes to come to his office. That visit led to the offer of a position which Downes accepted. He was given a desk in a general office where nearly a hundred other people worked, and he was notified that the office hours were from 8.30am to 5.30pm. His salary to begin with was modest.
At the end of the first day, when the gong rang announcing the close of the day’s work, Downes noticed that everyone grabbed his hat and coat and made a rush for the door. He sat still, waiting for the others to leave the office. After they had gone, he remained at his desk, pondering in his own mind, the cause of the great haste everyone had shown to get away on the very second of quitting time.
Fifteen minutes later Mr Durant opened the door of his private office, saw Downes still at his desk, and asked Downes whether he understood that he was privileged to stop work at 5.30. “Oh yes”, Downes replied, “but I did not wish to be run over in the rush”. Then he asked if he could be of any service to Mr Durant. He was told he might find a pencil for the motor magnate. He got the pencil, ran it through the pencil sharpener and took it to Mr Durant. Mr Durant thanked him and said “good night”.
The next day at quitting time Downes remained at his desk again after the “rush” was over. This time he waited with purpose aforethought. In a little while Mr Durant came out of his private office and asked again if Downes did not understand that 5.30 was the time for closing.
“Yes”, Downes smiled. “I understand it is quitting time for the others, but I haven’t heard anyone say that I have to leave the office when the day is officially closed, so I choose to remain here with the hope that I might be of one slight service to you”.
“What an unusual hope” Durant exclaimed. “Where did you get the idea?”
“I got it from a scene I witness here at closing time every day”, Downes replied. Durant grunted some reply which Downes did not hear distinctly and returned to his office.
From then on Downes always remained at his desk after closing time until he saw Mr Durant leave for the day. He was not paid to remain overtime. No one told him to do it. No one promised him anything for remaining and as far as the casual observer might know, he was wasting his time.
Several months later Downes was called into Mr Durant’s office and informed that he had been chosen to go out to a new plant that had been purchased recently to supervise the installation of the plant machinery. Imagine that! A former bank official becoming a machinery expert in a few months.
Without quibble, Downes accepted the assignment and went on his way. He did not say “Why Mr Durant, I know nothing about the installation of machinery”. He did not say “That’s not my job”, or “I’m not paid to install machinery”. No, he went to work and did what was requested of him. Moreover, he went at the job with a pleasant “mental attitude”.
Three months later, the job was completed. It was done so well that Mr Durant called Downes into his office and asked him where he learned about machinery. “Oh”, Downes explained, “I never learned, Mr Durant. I merely looked around, found men who knew how to get the job done, put them to work, and they did it.
“Splendid!” Mr Durant exclaimed. “There are two types of men who are valuable. One is the fellow who can do something and do it well, without complaining that he is being overworked. The other is the fellow who can get other people to do things well, without complaining. You are both types wrapped into one package”.
Downes thanked him for the compliment and turned to go.
“Wait a moment”, Durant requested. “I forgot to tell you that you are the new manager of a plant you have installed, and your salary to start with is $50, 000 a year”.
The following ten years of association with Mr Durant was worth between ten and twelve million dollars to Carol Downes. He became an intimate adviser of the motor king and made himself rich as a result.
There is nothing very dramatic about the story of Carol Downes. The main trouble with so many of us is that we see men who have “arrived” and weight them in the hour of their triumph without taking the trouble to find out how or why they “arrived”.
The incidents mentioned occurred during the day’s business, without even a passing notice by the average person who worked along with Downes. And we doubt not that many of these fellow workers envied him because they believed he had been favoured by Mr Durant, through some sort of pull or luck, or whatever it is that men who do not succeed use as an excuse to explaining their own lack of progress.
Well, to be candid, Downes did have an inside “pull” with Mr Durant!
He created that “pull” on his own initiative.
He created it by going the extra mile in a matter as trivial as that of placing a neat point on a pencil when nothing was requested except a plain pencil.
He created it by remaining at his desk “with the hope” that he might be of service to his employer after the “rush” was over at 5.30 each evening.
He created it by using his right of personal initiative by finding men who understood how to install machinery instead of asking Durant where or how to find such men.
Trace down these incidents step by step and you will find that Downes’ success was due solely to his own initiative. Moreover, the story consists of a series of little tasks well performed, in the right “mental attitude”.
Perhaps there were a hundred other men working for Mr Durant who could have done as well as Downes, but the trouble with them was that they were searching for the “end of the rainbow” by running away from it in the 5.30 rush each afternoon.
Long years afterward, a friend asked Carol Downes how he got his opportunity with Mr Durant. “Oh” he modestly replied, “I just made it my business to get in his way, so he could see me. When he looked around, wanting some little service, he called on me because I was the only one in sight. In time, he got into the habit of calling on me”.
There you have it! Mr Durant “got into the habit” of calling on Downes. Moreover, he found that Downes could and would assume responsibilities by going the extra mile.
What a pity that all of the American people do not catch something of this spirit of assuming greater responsibilities. What a pity that more of us do not begin speaking more of our “privileges” under the American way of life, and less of the lack of opportunities in America.
If there is a man living in America today who would seriously claim that Carol Downes would have been better off if he had been forced, by law, to join the mad rush and quit his work at 5.30 in the afternoon? If he had done so, he would have received the standard wages of the sort of work he performed, but nothing more. Why should he have received more?
His destiny was in his own hands. It was wrapped up in this one lone privilege of every American Citizen: the right of personal initiative through the exercise of which he had it a habit always to go the extra mile. That tells the whole story. There is no other secret to Downe’s success. He admits it, and everyone familiar with the circumstances of his promotion from poverty to riches knows it.
There is one thing no one seems to know: Why are there so few men who, like Carol Downes, discover the power implicit in doing more than one is paid for?
The whole world is clamouring for such men. They are needed and wanted in every walk of life. American industry has always had princely berths for men who can and will assume responsibilities and who get the job done in the right “mental attitude” by going the extra mile.
Andrew Carnegie lifted no fewer than forty such men from the lowly station of day labourers to millionaires. He understood the value of men who were willing to go the extra mile. Whenever he found such a man, he brought “his find” into the inner circle of his business and gave him an opportunity to earn “all he was worth”.
People do things or refrain from doing them because of a motive. The soundest of motives for the habit of going the extra mile is the fact that it yields enduring dividends in ways too numerous to mention, to all who follow the habit.
No one has ever been known to achieve permanent success without doing more than he was paid for. The practice has its counter-part in the laws of nature. It has back of it an impressive array of evidence as to its soundness. It is based on common sense and justice.
The best of all methods of testing the soundness of this principle is that of putting it to work as part of one’s daily habits. Some truths we can only learn through our own experience.
Americans want greater individual shares of the vast resources of this country. That is a healthy desire. The wealth is here in abundance, but let us get our wealth by giving something of value in return for it.
We know the rules by which success is attained. Let us appropriate these rules and use them intelligently, thereby acquiring the personal riches we demand, and adding to the wealth of the nation as well.