When our firm onboards a new Team Member, we give them at least 2 behavioral assessments. The first is the Kolbe Index, which measures the instinctive ways you take action when you strive. The second assessment is StrengthsFinder which explains the ways you most naturally think, feel and behave. Obviously, if we’re going to give them to our Team Members, we need to do them ourselves as well. And with that, my Co-Founder, Adam Zuercher, and I took both of the assessments. Turns out, Adam’s strengths are Futuristic and Visionary. Whereas mine are Consistency and Responsibility. These strengths complement one another in that Adam has been good in saying, “Hey, let’s go there, opportunity awaits!” And I’m the one setting the dials and charting the course so that we arrive on time and under budget. 20+ years later, we’re still partners, and our team of 13 Team Members hit the ground running every day as we help steward generational wealth for our clients.
In 1911, explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott led their respective teams to be the first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s team made it to their destination on time and as planned while Scott’s team met death along the way and the few that were left barely made it. What was the difference? Amundsen’s team had prepared carefully for the trip and approached the journey at a steady pace, averaging 20 miles each day. Scott’s team traveled 40 miles some days and set up camp on other days when they weren’t feeling up to it. Scott’s team was erratic and underprepared with their execution. Turns out, the 20 Mile March, a concept made famous by Jim Collins in his book Great By Choice, proved that preparation and consistency enables success.
Lest you miss the point, there were many days when Amundsen’s team didn’t feel like hiking that day. It was cold, they were tired. They wanted nothing more than to take a rest day, but they didn’t. And, there were nicer days when the team wanted to go further. But they resisted that temptation and simply stopped and held camp when they reached the 20-mile mark. That consistent progress, no matter their feelings, is what proved successful over the long journey.
So, too, these lessons and principles can be applied to business and our personal life. In business, 20 Mile Marching entails hitting stated performance markers with great consistency over a long period of time. And ultimately, it requires two specific types of unpleasantness: delivering high performance in difficult times and holding back to avoid overextension in good times. In our 20 years in business, we’ve certainly encountered some difficult times including 3 bear markets along the way (the deepest being the ’08-’09 Great Financial Crisis where the markets lost over 51% in a slow-motion train wreck). The total would be 4 bear markets if you count the fact that we started our business in the midst of a bear in the summer of 2002! But we’ve strived to deliver high value advice, recommendations, and behavioral coaching to our clients during those tough times. And, in the good times…the Bull Markets…we’ve restrained from over-spending on growth initiatives that might leave us overextended when, inevitably, more turbulent times return.
Personally, my 20 Mile March has been expressed mostly in my triathlon training. I remember when I first caught the bug in 2007, the training plan I started had me walk-run every other telephone pole. And consistently, morning after morning, I got up, whether I felt like it or not, and followed the plan. Dozens of Sprint and Olympic distance triathlon races since, I’ve learned to put in the work, log the miles, and finish the race.
For my faith journey, I try to be consistent in reading my Bible, and show up to church on Sundays. I have a set of mentors around me to help keep me accountable and on the right path. For my leadership path, I have a set of podcasts I don’t miss, and I seek to read at least 5 pages per day in a book I’m reading. For my role as a dad, I try to set up a one-on-one ‘date’ with my kids from time to time. As a husband, I try to connect with my wife for a date night or long walk to talk through our lives. And, for my role as a writer, I sit down the same time each week, whether I have an idea or not, and I write.
Lest you think I’m perfect…I’m far from it! I blow it all the time! But I’ve learned to forgive myself and move on. There’s always tomorrow. But you’ll remember that one of my top strengths is consistency, so this stuff does maybe come more naturally to me than to others. It’s what has allowed me to make purposeful progress towards my life goals. And achieve quite a few along the way.
By now, you’re thinking, “Well, that’s great Tony, so glad your strength is consistency…but it’s not mine! What am I supposed to do!?!?”
I’d simply remind you that consistency doesn’t have to be a strength to do it. It’s more mindset than it is anything an assessment can tell you. Just decide to show up, push through, even when it’s difficult. And never, ever, ever give up!
What’s your 20 Mile March?