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Mike Tomlin and the Willingness to Go the Extra Mile: A Business Perspective

Updated: Jan 31



If you're a fan of football, or even just a connoisseur of motivational speeches, you've likely come across Mike Tomlin, the charismatic head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin has a knack for distilling complex ideas into powerful, digestible nuggets of wisdom. One of his standout quotes, "It's not what you're capable of, it's what you're willing to do," hits especially hard in both sports and business contexts. Let's break this down and see how it can transform our professional attitudes and careers. Scroll to read more and watch the Mike Tomlin video clip.

Capability vs. Willingness: The Eternal Tug-of-War

We've all been there, sitting in a job interview or a performance review, talking up our capabilities. "I'm capable of leading a team," or "I can manage projects efficiently." Capabilities are great; they're the tools in our toolbox. But Tomlin's wisdom pushes us further, asking not what tools we have, but whether we're ready to get our hands dirty.

In business, as in football, the game isn't won by the team with the most tools, but by the team that uses what they have most effectively. It's a subtle shift in mindset from having skills to actively applying them, even when it's hard, even when we're tired, and especially when we'd rather not.

The Willingness to Step Up

Think about the last time someone at work said, "That's not my job." Now, imagine a world where instead, they asked, "How can I help?" That's the essence of Tomlin's message. It's about stepping up, even when it's not convenient or easy, and especially when it's outside our comfort zone.

In the fast-paced world of business, opportunities don't always knock politely and wait for you to answer. They often come disguised as additional work, challenges, or even problems. The willingness to step up and tackle these head-on is what separates the good from the great.

Going the Extra Mile: Not Just a Cliché

We hear it all the time: "Go the extra mile." But Tomlin's perspective gives this tired cliché new life. It's not just about doing more; it's about a willingness to push beyond our perceived limits. In a professional setting, this could mean taking the time to mentor a struggling colleague, revisiting a project to make it just a bit better, or putting in the hours to learn a new skill that could benefit the team.

The extra mile isn't crowded, not because people are incapable of walking it, but because many choose not to. Be one of the few who does.

Willingness in Leadership

Leadership isn't about titles or positions; it's about action. A leader who embodies Tomlin's ethos doesn't just direct from the sidelines; they're in the trenches, showing their team what willingness looks like in action. They set the pace and the standard, proving that success is not just about skill but about the determination to make the most of that skill.

Cultivating a Culture of Willingness

Creating a business culture that prioritizes willingness over mere capability can have transformative effects. It encourages initiative, fosters innovation, and builds a team that's resilient in the face of challenges. Such a culture doesn't happen by accident. It's cultivated by recognizing and rewarding not just achievement, but effort and the willingness to take on challenges.



Final Thoughts: It's Your Move

Mike Tomlin's insight, "It's not what you're capable of, it's what you're willing to do," serves as a powerful reminder of our potential to achieve greatness, not just in our careers but in all aspects of our lives. It challenges us to look beyond our abilities and focus on our actions. Because at the end of the day, our capabilities set the stage, but it's our willingness to act that steals the show.

So, next time you're faced with a challenge, a task, or an opportunity that seems just a bit out of reach, ask yourself: am I willing to do what it takes? Remember, in the grand game of business and life, willingness is the ace up your sleeve. Play it wisely.

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