While at a leadership meeting the other day I heard Chris Brady give a great talk on a success philosophy from Jim Collins called the 2o mile March. The 20 mile march philosophy of Collins and Hansen was adopted from Roald Amundsen, the first explorer to reach the South Pole. The late 1800s and the early 1900s was the age of the great explorers. Much honor and notoriety came along with a countries success in exploration. 2 of the great explorers of this aforementioned time were Robert Falcon Scott of England, and Roald Amundsen of Norway. Scott and Amundsen both had aspirations of being the first explorer to hike the 1400 miles across the dangerous and desolate Antarctic to reach the South Pole. In 1910 their perspective journeys began.
Scott and Amundsen were equally matched in age, ambition, and experience, but not in strategy. Scott’s strategy was to take advantage of the nice days and rest up on the nasty days. Amundsen on the other hand had a strategy of consistency and discipline. Their goal was to hike 20 miles a day, and only 20 miles, no matter what.
Scott would push the limits to sheer exhaustion on the nice days, hiking upwards of 60 miles, and spend the nasty days recovering from their mental and physical exertion in their makeshift tents and reindeer sleeping bags. Amundsen on the other hand hit the 20 mile mark on the good days and the bad days. Whether it was sunny and calm or 40 below zero and windy, 20 miles and only 20 miles was their goal. As one author said, ‘Routine shall set you free.’ Amundsen used the down time on the good days to check his equipment, make repairs, dry out the sleeping bags, etc…
In December, 1911 Roald Amundsen and his crew were the first explorers to reach the infamous South Pole. Amundsen’s strategy of discipline and consistency to traverse the 1400 mile frozen wasteland ruled the day! What happened to Scott? He and his crew reached the South Pole 34 days later, tattered, exhausted and frostbitten. Scott and his men soon after froze to death in their ragged tents and wet sleeping bags during their attempted long journey home.
Roald Amundsen, along with his amazing accomplishment of being the first to reach the South Pole, went on to become the first to reach the North Pole and the first explorer to traverse the treacherous Northwest passage in Canada. His 20 mile mark strategy of consistency, discipline, modulation, and routine made him one of the most famous and successful explorers of all time.
How does this apply to you and your pursuit of success in these trying socioeconomic times? I am no Jim Collins or Chris Brady for that matter, but the following are 3 important points I would encourage you to make note of from this story.
1) There is no such thing as a fair-weather leader - There will always be more nasty days than nice days. There will always be more days where you are sick, tired, sick and tired, feel fat, fighting with your spouse, discouraged, or just don’t feel like doing anything. There will always be more days when you get in a fender-bender, get a flat tire, spill something on your suit, and forget your wallet. There will always be more days where you have to deal with conflict, a rebelling teenager and PMS running rampant in your household. There will always be more days with snow storms, humidity, and rainstorms than days that are perfect and sunny. There will always be more days that you don’t ‘feel like’ leading and when success as they say, is on the other side of inconvenience.
2) Procrastination and burn-out are equal enemies to success – As was mentioned earlier, the right routine will set you free. A proper routine, not to be confused with a rut, will protect you from the dangers of procrastination and getting burnt out. All of the successful leaders that I know or that I have read about are constantly fine-tuning their ‘success routine’ They have a measured routine of getting what Geoff Colvin calls ‘deliberate practice’, or what Jeff Olson calls ‘the slight edge’ or Sam Parker calls ‘the extra degree’ or what Orrin Woodward calls a ‘daily dose of leadership’. Success habits, built into a daily ’20 mile march’ routine, is the only way I know of becoming a great leader and staying a great leader.
3) Schedule your priorities vs prioritize your schedule - The 20 mile march philosophy allows a leader to live his purpose, without getting his or her priorities all out of whack. Your priorities of Faith, Family, Finance, etc… should be relatively simple to maintain with a fine-tuned 20 mile march success routine.