Becoming a Second Miler: Enjoying the Second

“If you want to make a difference, step over the line and into that second mile, because magical things happen there” – Dan Cathy

Overachieving in Service

If you have been to a Chick-fil-A restaurant, you are aware of the long lines. But more introspectively, the long lines are a reflection of a commitment made by the founder Truett Cathy to go the Second Mile in customer service. The first mile, as viewed by Cathy, is doing the things that customers expect and do them extremely well. What sets Chick-fil-A apart from other fast-food restaurants can be explained by a short yet telling statement by Cathy; “10% more effort yields a 100% better result.” By stepping over the first-mile line to ask, “what are the things people would not expect from a fast-food restaurant, and how could we do those things with excellence?” Chick-Fil-A has become one of the top restaurant chains despite being closed on Sundays, a day when many restaurants experience the highest customer traffic. A 2016 Customer Experience Index conducted by the company Forrester, revealed that Chick-fil-A realized a nine-time return on investment for doing the things that customers did not expect as opposed to a one-time return by doing what customers expected. 

I recall going to a Chick-fil-A drive-thru and placing my order. After paying for my food and saying “thank you,” to my shock, the cashier replied, “it’s my pleasure to serve you.” That was years ago, but those unheard of words from a cashier have imprinted that experience in my mind. This overachieving in service embedded in Chick-Fil-A stretches beyond the confines of the restaurant. 

Robert Wilkins was heading home after a long shift at Chick-Fil-A. As he crossed the parking lot to his car, he noticed a lady stranded next to her car with a flat tire and soaking wet from the falling rain. Not built to keep on walking, Robert, tired from his shift, went to her, got on his knees, and helped change her tire. Afterward, Robert simply went his way and was back to work the following day. His act was only recognized when another man who was helping out sent an email to Chick-Fil-A corporate offices. Restaurant owner, David Langston, said this about Wilkins, “I had no idea it happened. He didn’t tell us. Robert is a humble guy. He’s not one to seek attention; he has a strong, intrinsic desire to help people and make them happy and be there in times of need.” On a gloomy rainy day, a second-mile act brightened someone’s day and changed the environment of their life. 

Changing the Environment

Becoming a second miler is possible at any age or place. It’s not just for organizations or working adults, but even a five-year-old can change the environment with a second-mile mindset. During the 2020 stay-at-home order because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 5-year-old Carter Mason told his mum he would like to go out and pick up trash. And from then on every weekend he has picked up at least one bag of trash. His second-mile act has inspired many to rally around him by forming Carter’s Clean Up Crew, a Facebook page that has hundreds of members sprawled over the United States and even in Canada. Their main focus; picking up trash in their communities. Carter’s reason is, “because it makes the earth beautiful.” 

We may think that second milers act in big ways, but from the stories above, the lesson is clear. Little things that make a big difference is the essence that constitutes a second-miler’s make-up. 

The Little Things

Every day and everywhere, there are small opportunities presented our way to either ignore or invest in. I distill these opportunities into two specific categories; words and actions. Like the cashier at the drive-through window who said, “it’s my pleasure to serve you”, words that take two seconds to utter can create a memory that lasts for a lifetime. I have always wondered how many more people did the cashier touch each time she spoke those words? Two seconds are all it takes to enter the second mile. In a given situation, what words can you utter to improve someone else’s environment? It may be small to you like picking up trash on the ground or changing a tire, but words have miles of impact greater than we could ever fathom. 

Our actions are equally if not more powerful than words. In tandem, actions and words create a dynamo causing a lasting effect in other people’s lives. What was surprising about Robert Wilkins, was that the next day he was outside again going the second mile to help someone else. None of us may know Robert’s career aspirations, his educational level, or his financial status, but with a second-mile heart, the metrics many of us use to measure success succumb to irrelevancy. His consistent acts that characterize a second miler let me know that his life is satisfying because other-centeredness is his modus operandi. 

Final Thought: Becoming a second miler is symbiotic in nature. As you change someone else’s environment with little things you say or do, the return on investment is always greater than the seed you invest in the soil of someone else’s life. Like Carter Mason, who knows what you may start or trigger in others as you display a second miler’s mindset. Remember little things have a way of making a big impact. This echoes Cathy’s, “10% more effort yields a 100% better result” observation. Try the second mile, you will discover a life filled with intangible rewards and void of regrets. 

Keep on keeping on.


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