The Difference a Little Extra Effort Makes

Sometimes, success is simply a matter of making one small adjustment. For example, at 211 degrees, water is hot. But at 212 degrees it boils. This makes all the difference.

Sam Parker and Mac Anderson expanded on this simple metaphor in their short book, 212°: the Extra Degree. They wrote,

Raising the temperature of water by one extra degree means the difference between something that is simply very hot and something that generates enough force to power a machine—a beautiful, uncomplicated metaphor that ideally should feed every endeavor—consistently pushing us to make the extra effort in every task we undertake…. It reminds us that seemingly small things can make tremendous differences.

Think about it:

  • The margin of victory in the Men’s 800-meter Race in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games was only 0.71 seconds—less than one second!
  • The average margin of victory in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 (combined) over the last ten years has been 1.54 seconds. And the prize money for second place was less than half that of first place.
  • The average margin of victory for the last 25 years in all major PGA golf tournaments combined was less than three strokes.

The point is that it doesn’t take that much extra effort to win first place. What could you do if you were willing to push just a little bit more and break ahead of the pack?

Here’s how you can harness the 212° principle in your goal-setting:

  1. Choose one goal. Select the one that matters the most to you this year.
  2. Identify what’s at stake. Why is accomplishing this goal so important—to you?
  3. Write down 2-3 key actions. These are the ones that could propel you into the winner’s circle.
  4. Now execute! Stop planning. Stop stalling. Just get out there and do it.

I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Edison (also cited in Parker and Anderson’s book):

Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

How close are you right now?

You might want to show the video above to your team and then go through the exercise I’ve outlined together. It could make all the difference in accomplishing your most important goal for this year.

Question: Where could you make a little extra effort and accomplish big results? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • TNeal


  • Tim Milburn

    I love this metaphor. Extra effort separates ordinary from extraordinary. Sometimes it’s simply doing a bit more than the average. But we often don’t know what is average and what is excellent. It’s easy to know when water is at 211* because we can measure the temperature. 212* is easy to see because the water reacts by boiling. It’s more difficult to gauge and measure where we’re at in our personal tasks, goals, and dreams. Doing one more thing may only result in greater busyness rather than desired outcomes. It’s so important to work toward something measurable (what) and meaningful (why).

  • Kari Scare

    After  reading through the comments, the thought struck me again about how comparisons really get us into trouble. If we compare ourselves to others, it’s easier to do less than what is excellent for us. Average is easy, and excellence takes work. We must leave out making comparisons if we ever hope to achieve an above-average life and reach the excellence that God has planned for each one of us.

  • Kari Scare

    I totally get what you’re (TNeal) saying about finding it hard to ask for help or ask others to participate. I just always think they should offer. My husband helps balance me in this area. He tells my kids to help me and that I won’t always ask when I need it. He also reminds and encourages me to ask for help. I need to learn to do this because I find myself growing resentful when others don’t help me even though I didn’t ask. I also need to learn to let others help me when they do offer. Why is it so hard to say “yes” to an offer for help when we do receive it? Pride?

  • W. Patrick Jones

    It is an inspiring post to put in the extra effort, but to say that it doesn’t take much extra effort to win first place is a bit of a stretch.  I don’t know much about running, but when it comes to auto racing, there is an amazing amount of technology, knowledge, experience, and other things that make the difference between first and second.  

    I guess I just wanted to say that, sometimes, it takes an extraordinary amount of effort to “go that extra mile”.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!!  But know that sometimes, it is harder than others.

  • Marc Buxton

  • Marc Buxton

    I have been implementing the idea of “focus” a lot in my work and ministry lately, and this post is right along that line. Zeroing in on something is how to get it done. Choose one thing and do it well, and people will remember you for it…

    • Kari Scare

      Choosing one thing and doing it well gets at the idea of simplifying life. Too often, we have too many things we do with mediocrity. Doing fewer things and doing them well helps to simplify as well as focus life.

  • Aaa

    With that music my boiling temperature immediately drops to ICE temperature! What a horrible music! I never come back to your site. First Impression Last Impression

  • Sam Parker

    Thanks for mentioning my book, Michael!

    Be two-twelve!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Sam. Great book!

      • Sam Parker

        Hi, Michael. You mentioned my book (212) back in January. I thought you might enjoy our latest video about love (3-minutes on working and living together). It’s called Love Your People…
        Please call or email anytime.


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