20-Mile March

'Marines march in 2011 New York Veterans Day Parade [Image 1 of 10]' photo (c) 2011, DVIDSHUB - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I went to the Catalyst Conference back in October of 2011.  I was excited to hear some speakers who I greatly respected, didn’t really want to hear one guy in particular and hadn’t heard of several of them.  One such gentleman that I hadn’t heard of was a guy named Jim Collins.  He’s written a few books on leadership and business and what separates the good from the great.  His last two books are now on my must-read list, Good To Great and Great By Choice.

His presentation focused on his latest book, Great By Choice and why, given the same set of circumstances, some businesses or people succeed and some fail.  This type of research has always intrigued me, so once he got started I was able to tune out everything around me.  Last week I listened to the audio of his presentation again.

He told the story of two explorers trying to be the first people to reach the south pole.  One gentleman took his team, some experimental equipment, just enough food and started out.  When the weather was good, they went as far as they could.  When the weather was bad, they stayed in their tents to wait it out.  They reached the south pole first and started their way back to their base camp.

The second leader went to live with Eskimos and study they way of life.  Instead of taking experimental equipment, he used dogs to pull their sleds.  They took three times the amount of food needed and made sure they were going to find the depots on their way back.  Every day they went 15-20 miles.  If the weather was good, they’d go 20.  If the weather was bad, they’d go 15.  It didn’t matter the circumstances.  He knew that more than 20 miles exhaustion would set in.  But he also knew that less than 15 miles would be a waste of a day.

In these two instances the first gentleman took risks on things that weren’t tested, and when things got hard (weather), he would just sit back and let it pass.  He and every person on his team died 11 miles from their last food depot.

The second gentleman did his research.  He used dogs because they don’t sweat and freeze, and they’ve been tested for hundreds of years.  He set markers 10 miles out from each food depot so they wouldn’t miss them and wind up dead.  And the thing that got me was that EVERY DAY they set out to reach their goal.   They made it back to their base camp and are credited with being the first people to reach the south pole.

Mr. Collins talked about businesses and the ones that excel are the ones that do the hard stuff day in and day out.  He called it their 20-mile march.  Every day, doing the things it takes to succeed.  Be prepared for what you can’t imagine.  Be disciplined.  And it helps to be a little bit crazy, too.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my 20-mile march.  What is it?  What should it be?

So I’ve been trying to be more deliberate.  When I get up in the morning, I try to get up in time for me to show up on time to work.  I’m getting things done well.  This weekends dieting disaster aside, I’m eating well and clean.  I’m going to the gym.  These are all things that I need to do daily in order to be available.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the old me.

It’s just that I think there’s a better one lurking somewhere inside.

I think it’s time to start working towards that.

What’s your 20-mile march?

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  • Great post Julie! Jim Collins is one of my favorites – but I’d not heard that story before!

    • Thanks, Tor! His presentation was fantastic! I’d definitely recommend downloading it from the Catalyst site if at all possible!