Great By Choice
Great by Choice, by Jim Collins, delves into the question: What does it take for a company to thrive in times of uncertainty and chaos? The book got me thinking about a lot of things (he is good at that). One key concept Collins introduced continues to gnaw at me, even months later. I see it at play seemingly everywhere–the idea of the 20 mile march.
More Than A Philosophy
The 20 mile march is about “fanatic discipline” as Collins refers to it. It is about getting up every day and taking the little, non-exciting, but very necessary, steps towards attainable goals. It is about doing so with fierce consistency and unwavering determination. Collins explains, “the 20 Mile March is more than a philosophy. It is about having concrete, clear, intelligent, and rigorously pursued performance mechanisms that keep you on track.”
Amundsen & Scott
One of the stories Collins uses to model the elements of the 20 mile march is that of Roald Amundsen & Robert Falcon Scott and their contrasting journeys in 1910 to be the first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and his team trekked between 15-20 miles each day no matter the conditions. When Amundsen’s team encouraged him to go further on days when weather was ideal, Amundsen would say no, knowing the importance of rest and recuperation for the team and the overall journey. In contrast, Scott pushed his team to the brink of exhaustion (and eventually over the edge) going farther on days when conditions were good and wallowing in his tent on stormy days, complaining in his journal about their misfortunes. The story details and comparison are quite incredible. If you want to read more, here are a couple places suggested to me by others:
- Captain Scott by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
- Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford
20 Miles Not Just For Business
As I read about Amundsen & Scott, I kept thinking about all the ways the story applied, not only to the business world, but to my pursuit of goals in edtech, education, writing, learning, exercising, eating well, relationships, and a whole bunch of other stuff. In each case I was still searching for an easy button, a shortcut, the secret–to make it all work. Well, here is the secret–there is no secret. All those things we seek to improve, from our classroom culture and technology integration practices to our exercise consistency and depth of relationships, they are all going to take a commitment to 20 mile marching. Things that are worthwhile take a while.
The Next Questions
Once I came to terms with the myth of the shortcut, the next logical question became: How could I plan and execute a 20 mile march to make it to my equivalent of the South Pole(s)? And secondly: How could I help educators make it to their South Pole(s)? Lucky for me, Collins specifically outlines 7 elements to the 20 mile march that I found strikingly applicable to educational goals. I think this post is long enough for now… so, I’ll going to stop here and pick up next time with the 7 elements.