Everyday Matters: The 20-Mile March

In their book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen set out to answer the question: “Why do some companies thrive in the midst of uncertainty and chaos and others fail?” Across the board they found that it wasn’t raw talent that set some apart but instead, discipline. Executing a plan consistently over long periods of time is what excelled the great.

To illustrate this principle, they developed the story of the 20 mile march. In their tale, they have you imagine you are standing on the Pacific Coast, ready to embark on a journey to Maine by foot. You’ll walk 20 miles per day, day in and day out, rain or shine – 20 miles. Even on the perfect days where you could easily muster up 40 or even 60 miles, you put in your 20 and call it done for the day. Eventually, you arrive in Maine.

Now imagine another person that stands with you on that first day on the Pacific coast. This person puts down an impressive 40 miles the first day but on the second day, in light of the sweltering heat, this person decides to stay in the cool of their tent with the intention to make up the miles on a better day. He continues this pattern: massive gains on great days and relaxing in the tent on bad days. Despite making impressive strides on the great days, when he finally reaches Kansas City, you’re already at the tip of Maine – your journey completed.

You beat him by a long shot. But how? Discipline. Day in and day out, you put in the miles. Collins and Hansen found that those super successful companies and individuals who put in consistent effort toward their goals every day without fail surpassed those that achieved in spurts.

Developing persistent habits can change your life and take you to the next level. What items can you put on your daily 20-mile march toward success? Every day matters.


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