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Fanatic Discipline and the 20 Mile March

| July 15, 2013 | 4 Comments

Fanatic DisciplineEvery January, we make resolutions for the new year. We want to eat well, lose weight, spend more time with family, improve our grades, or move forward in our careers. By February, most of us have done little or nothing to achieve these goals, and many have even given up on the idea of doing so. Year after year, why do we do this? Because changing your behavior to achieve your goals is incredibly hard.

Take working out as an example.

On January 1st, you decide you are going to spend more time exercising. On January 2nd, you get up bright and early to go for a run. It is a beautiful day outside, and you run five miles. When you wake up on January 3rd, it is cold and rainy, so you decide to take the day off and double your amount tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, it’s rainy again. Who wants to run in the rain? You’ll wait until it’s nice out, and you’ll make up for the distance you’ve lost. After a month of ups and downs, you slowly stop running altogether. After all, life is busy, and running isn’t all that important.

Here’s another way to approach the situation: resolve to run 2 miles a day, no matter the weather. It’s raining? Suck it up and throw on a jacket. It’s sunny? Reign yourself in. This is the definition of discipline, doing something consistent over a long period of time.

“The 20 Mile March”

In his novel Great By Choice, Jim Collins calls this tactic the “20 Mile March”. It means that you march 20 miles, no more and no less, every single day – no matter the excuses or conditions. When it comes to business, it means that you have absolute focus on one task to execute. There’s no “chasing shiny objects” or “taking a day off” or “trying something else”. The mark of a great leader is to be consistent in whatever task you undertake. It is extremely hard – but then, so is being successful.

In our personal lives, we have a hard time getting to where we want to go. We want to achieve success and be happy, but for many of us, it seems a long way off. The truth is, most of us lack the ability to discipline ourselves into a routine in order to get there. Most of us are inconsistent.

Inconsistency Kills

In business, most companies die not because of a lack of money, a bad economic climate, or poor products – though of course all of these do contribute. Rather, they die due to inconsistency. It’s incredibly hard for a CEO to say to her troops “we are going in this direction with absolute focus, and we will adjust small details along the way”. It seems simple but most CEOs instead find themselves weaving all over the place – going from person to person and idea to idea.

Being inconsistent is the cause of most failed resolutions and personal goals. Flipping from object to object in our lives is a surefire way to never be great at anything. Being “good at a lot of things” is often worse than “being great at one thing”, especially when it comes to our personal lives. But combating inconsistency is often harder than it seems.

“Fanatic Discipline”

Jim Collins identifies this resolve and consistency as “fanatic discipline”, and this discipline is what separates average people and companies from great ones. Fanatic discipline is the ability to have laser focus on one goal, and to break it down into a daily 20 mile march. Those who are able to never lose sight of the goal, and always keep pushing forward, are the ones who will succeed.

So for yourself, your family, and your team – try to create this “zone of focus” in your daily life. Take an hour every night to read about the career you are trying to get into. Make a goal to take one successful person in your field out for coffee each week. Set a goal of how much weight you want to lose, and break that goal down into “20 Mile” segments. Life is a long journey, but we are always able to break it into manageable chunks – and in each of those chunks, we should be disciplined enough to allow nothing to get in our way.  Practice consistency and fanatic discipline in every aspect of your life, whether personal or professional – and every day, you will find yourself 20 miles closer to achieving your goals.

Spencer Thompson is the 21-year-old CEO of Sokanu

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  • Mike Darche

    Nice post Spencer! I think excuses are huge consistency killers… Just like your workout example- the second you let one small excuse into your head (weather), it’s game over. The thought of an escape grows in your mind like a virus and becomes increasingly harder to resist. You need that “fanatic discipline” to remove any thought that might distract you from your goals.

  • cesar romero

    Spencer, I love your article man!!! Consistency, yes it’s hard, but it’s definitely what separates the average from excellence!!! Our habits have a lot to do with our consistency and I guess for those who want to be more consistent, should start first looking at personal habits and determine what changes you need to make in order to be more consistent with what you are trying to achieve!

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Classic piece, very well written. Thanks Spencer for sharing this article with us.

  • Melissa Krivachek


    Love this article because it’s short, to the point, and very well composed. Habits are the backbone of a business, and consistency is the structure and foundation the business sits on if it isn’t stable it will crumble. Looking forward to more of your articles.