Many humans have gone to extraordinary lengths throughout history to prove to themselves, or others, that a feat could be accomplished. What is the motivating factor?
Taking on any difficult feat starts with a willingness to do it. When you’re a kid and race your friends down the street and back to see who is the fastest, you can only gauge your speed compared to them by running. Perhaps you come in last, or you blaze by everyone to first place. Either way, before the race starts, you don’t know where you’ll place. It’s this unpredictability that fuels humans first to take a step. Often, we want to know the limits of our abilities, and typically once we do, we desire to increase them tenfold. The only way to describe this explorative and competitive desire within ourselves is innate. To be better today than we were yesterday.
Some of us are born with more ability and talent than others. More specifically, with increased athleticism, skill, and dexterity. Yet, when I ponder the differences in our capacity to compete, like sports, I am reminded of the saying,
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Simply put, these words describe those who are willing to go the extra mile, despite their shortcomings. Those who continuously show up, day after day, hoping to shave a few seconds off their mile time. Those who, regardless of their circumstances, have the will to keep going.
A willingness to go the extra mile usually starts with a goal. For example, take Hicham El Guerrouj, who, on July 7th, 1999, ran the fastest one mile ever recorded, in a time of 03:43:13. The record of just under 4 minutes stands today, but it was no easy feat indeed. El Guerrouj, a Moroccan native, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Another example is Veljko Rogošić, who, from August 29th-31st in 2006, swam a record 139.8 miles over 50 hours and 10 minutes, the longest distance ever swum without flippers in the open sea.
Or how about Kami Rita Sherpa, who set the world record for most ascents on Mount Everest, the largest mountain in the world, an astonishing 24 times. Conceivably, even more impressive, is that Sherpa completed both his 23rd and 24th attempts in the same week. Through constant dedication to their craft, these individuals were able to set world-record-breaking accomplishments. What separated them from their competition was their willingness to go the extra mile.
Speaking of which, let’s look at Sherpa’s example. Having already climbed Mount Everest once, he’s done something most people will never do. Considering how dangerous the ascent of Mount Everest is, with many people falling victim to the environment’s harsh conditions, what would possess somebody to climb the highest summit in the world 24 times? Some people may interpret this quest as partially insane, though I believe all record-holders and extremely competitive athletes alike have a little bit of crazy in them.
However, this insatiable desire to be the best at what they do or to prove to themselves or others drives these individuals. I’d be remiss if I didn’t state that a willingness to go the extra mile doesn’t always look like climbing Mount Everest or setting a world record. It’s often about pushing yourself a little further, which can look like plenty of various everyday tasks. Perhaps you have a goal of benching 200 pounds, have met a wall at 190 pounds, and can’t seem to get over the hump. You complete a set of 10 repetitions every time you lift. Next time out, though, you switch up the routine and complete a set of 11 repetitions. You do this for two weeks, and during the third one, you finally reach your goal of lifting 200 pounds.
Maybe after basketball practice, you force yourself to make 10 shots in a row before you leave. No one else on your team does this, but you do it to prove to yourself you can and be consistent. Your dedication shows as you are the most steady and reliable shooter on the team. Going the extra mile doesn’t always mean taking extreme measures to reach your destination. In the first example, it was only one repetition that made the difference. In the second, it was a habit of accountability, a standard of excellence, that separated the basketball player. Either way, the result was the same and started with a willingness to go the extra mile.