This past weekend I heard this expression attributed to the nine yard length of the ammunition belt that fed the 50 caliber machine guns in the WWII B-17 bomber. It was said that, when the gunner had emptied his ammo belt in the direction of the enemy, he had given them "the whole nine yards". This sounded like a plausible explanation to me; it was certainly one that had dramatic imagery associated with it!
For the B-17 gunner, it wasn't simply a matter of emptying his machine gun belt toward enemy targets. Of significance was that the gunner had to meter his shots, because 9 yards of ammo (supposedly about a thousand rounds, also a debated fact) didn't go as far as you'd think when in the heat of battle. You had to measure your shots and make them count.
In our daily work, which sometimes feels like the heat of battle (though thankfully it is not due to the courage of those who've served), it's not enough to simply say that we've given "the whole nine yards" each day. Certainly that expression indicates effort, but have we made the results of our work valuable? Have we expended our energy on worthwhile targets and in pursuits that matter?
We have the ability to reload, just as the B-17 could do if it safely returned to base. Although we get a fresh start each day, what matters most is whether we make our efforts count. Are you giving each day "the whole nine yards"? The result is unmistakable when you do.