The 20 Mile March

South PoleYou have a vision, a goal. You want to accomplish it. More than that, you need to accomplish it.

Every time you start your journey, you get hit by a setback. You need to move forward but you do not know how.

You need a 20 mile march in your life.

This is a term I first heard coined by Jim Collins, the author of Good To Great and Great By Choice.

In Great By Choice, Collins refers to the adventure Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott set out upon. The adventure was to be the first person to reach the South Pole.

Both, Amundsen and Scott, set out at the same time. Only one group of explorers returned.

Robert Falcon Scott was said to have let the weather decide when they should move. Some days they would push great distances, others they would not move at all. In the end, it is believed that this is what caused the death of his whole expedition team.

Roald Amundsen, on the other hand, had a plan. Roald planned to go 20 miles every day. No matter the weather or how the team felt, they were to go the 20 miles. Roald Amundsen returned with all men in his expedition team alive.

 I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.
— from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen

This is where the principle of the 20 mile march originates. Staying focused and being consistent every day.

For you, the 20 mile march will not be literal. It will be metaphorical. The 20 mile march will be a goal you have set for yourself.

Your 20 mile march may be:

  • Writing 1,000 words a day for your next book
  • Calling 20 prospective donors a day
  • Praying for 20 students a day
  • Sending your book proposal to 20 companies a day
  • Reading 20 pages a day

Regardless of what your march is, it is important that it is consistent.

When you break the consistency, you make the following days more stressful. You need to play catchup. You have to push harder than before. You have to beware of falling further behind.

To take your leadership to the next level, you must learn and implement this principle.

When your path looks scary, go the 20 miles.

When you are tired, go the 20 miles.

When you want to turn back, go the 20 miles.

If you do not have a 20 mile march, I urge you to create one. Having a 20 mile march will help you focus on the goal and what needs to be accomplished. Every day you will be able to check the box complete, allowing you to move to the next 20 miles.

You may be asking what my 20 mile march is. Let me tell you.

It is to have a post ready to publish Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I also write every night Monday through Friday.

By doing this, I create consistency. I know when I need to be writing, I know when I need to have a blog post ready, and knowing I am supposed to write everyday encourages me to do it.

Question: What is your 20 mile march? How has it impacted your life? Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I made the effort to write and write and to create an atmoshpere in my mind to always look for Christ in Culture and in the things I see and do every day…

    for a few months I wrote 4 times a week…then 3 times a week…this month i’ll be doing once a week but with a series going on…I plan to take it back up to 3 in Feb…

    I’ve also made it a goal to at least record our first album every monday…i’ve slipped slightly on that front…but we are back on track…lol…

    thanks for this encouragement Joe…it was much needed!

    God bless!

    • Let me know when the album is done. I would love to hear it!

  • Great post! It goes along with mine for today really well, it’s about not living in fear, not reacting to life from a stance of fear

    My 20 mile march involves writing as well. I am seeking clarity from God on time management. I might have to decrease my blog to one day/week instead of two so that I can write my book. I know that true success/happiness will only come when I am doing what God wants and though I want to do both, I do not have the time. Thankfully I have God on my side!

    Again, great post!

    • I enjoyed your post TC. I can see how it goes along with my post well. Thank you for sharing it.

      Looking forward to the day you finish your book. It’s going to be awesome.

      • Thanks so much! Appreciate the encouragement. Have a great day.

  • Amen! Last year, it was 2 posts a week, and write 3 mornings a week. I killed it and gained some amazing momentum. I can call myself a writer and not a wannabe. I do it.

    This year, its 3 posts a week, write EVERY morning, and three special projects. There’s a lot more detail behind that on my whiteboard…a daily schedule to measure by.

    20 miles. Every day.

    • Nice Christine!

      Your blog is coming along nicely! Can’t wait to see what you have for us this coming year.

      Quick question, you mention that you’re writing every morning. Is the writing all for the blog or is it for other projects?

  • Joseph, This is a perfect example of something I have read, but needed to hear again. Great reminder a summary of Collin’s main thrust in that book. I’m glad I found your blog today and I look forward to reading it in the future! Cheers!

    • Noah, glad it rung true with you today. It’s a principle we all need to hear again and again.

  • Joe, this post is dynamite! Thanks for sharing it. The example you quoted from “Great By Choice” is a great motivating story.

    My “20 mile march” for 2012 includes getting ready with three posts per week (Monday, Wednesday & Friday) and a video post on Sundays. I plan to be consistent in accomplishing it.

    • Sounds like a great 20 mile march Joe! Are the Sunday videos going to be on a specific topic or will they vary week to week?

      • Thanks, Joe! As of now, for the videos, I am planning to go for different topic on each Sunday. But I am already following a specific topic (12 STEPS TO START 2012 AFRESH) for the blog posts. By the way, my yesterday’s post was very much connected to your latest post!)

      • Thanks, Joe! As of now, for the videos, I am planning to go for different topic on each Sunday. But I am already following a specific topic (12 STEPS TO START 2012 AFRESH) for the blog posts. By the way, my yesterday’s post was very much connected to your latest post!)

  • Joe, first time to your blog and today your subject of 20 mile march was very inspiring. I am going to seek the Lord on my first committed 20 mile march area. Thanks

    • Well Jane, I’m glad you found my blog and that it was able to inspire you. I hope you find a great area to commit to this year. You’ll be amazed by what you will accomplish if you do!

  • My march is in the areas of writing and photography. I haven’t quite defined them yet, but have plenty of ideas!

    • Awesome Jeff! I know you’re already doing great with your blog writing.

      If you’re able to learn and improve your photography like you have your Photoshop skills, your work will be stunning.

  • Thanks, Joseph. Great thoughts here; Collins is excellent, eh? My 20 miles are similar to yours in having a post prepared for Tuesdays and Fridays and a video/quote post on the weekend for this year.

    Thanks again!

    • Charlie, you’re right. Collins is excellent. I had the pleasure of watching him speak at Catalyst East and he blew me away.

      I’m looking forward to your blog posts. Your post about Our Damaged Concept of Free rung true.

  • For me the 20 mi. march is blogging consitently, and also making music w/ my wife on a regular basis (goals to two different ends). I love Jim Collins, and I love this post. Such a great reminder that success very seldom happens by accident.

    • Put your mind to it and set forth on the march Stephen. You’ll accomplish that and much more.

  • Anonymous

    I still need to read Great by Choice. I have been working on writing everyday (Or at least 6 days a week). This is something I’m working on this year. This leads me to my “20 Mile March” which is to eventually write a book. Right now I’m building my platform through my blog and social media outlets. I first might write an e-Book(50-75 pages) then eventually a traditional book.

    • It’s good that you are already working on your platform, wish I would have done that. Instead I wrote the book and am working on not only getting it published but also on building a platform.

      Sounds like you’re on the right track.

    • You won’t be disappointed with it. Collins is a great author who makes you think.

      Good luck as you march towards the book writing. If it contains great content like your blog, it will be stellar.

      • Anonymous

        So true about Collins, I’ve been thinking about re-reading Good to Great.

        I really appropriate that. Thank you.

  • Bmwbear129

    Okay, Joe….20 minutes DAILY I be writing. Thanks for being such a great inspiration!!!

    • Good Brenda! I look forward to seeing the posts.

  • Wow…I had never heard that story. Consistency in anything is the only way to get something done of significance. It requires courage and perseverance more than raw talent.

    • Glad to introduce you to a piece of history you’ve never heard before. I hope it encourages you to develop consistency in your life.

  • I’m writing a second book and sometimes I’m “not feeling” it, but have I have to push through to accomplish my dreams, my 20 mile march!

    • Keep on marching Kimanzi! You’ll reach the end point soon enough.

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  • Great blog Joe. I found you through Kimanzi’s site and I’m glad I did! My most recent 20 mile march was accomplishing my private pilot license last year. It was a childhood dream and I decided at 25 that I wasn’t going to take my dream to the grave with me like so many others do. It was every bit as difficult as I thought it would be! Every day I hit the books and suffered financially to accomplish my goal. I know from personal experience that daily commitment pays off huge and the most difficult things are almost always the ones that are most worth doing.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Hi Mike! Thanks for coming and visiting my site from Kimanzi’s. He’s a great guy!

      Congratulations on getting your pilot’s license. It is an accomplishment. Have you continued to fly privately since getting your license and how do you enjoy the experience of flying a plane?

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  • jeff

    I suppose this 20mile exercise presumes that you have chosen one, and only one, task to do everyday?  and that it must be done for at least a year?

    • I think you could apply to more than one task and for less than one year. The 20 mile exercise is more about being consistent and showing up everyday rather than being flighty and going for instant gratification.

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  • King Near

    I know this post is late, but it has given me inspiration and a lead into a program we are going to try in our company this spring. And that is to help each employee to be more financially responsible through an accountability program. They can choose to not be in it of course, but I think they will see the rewards will outweigh the sacrifice. I can correlate the 20 mile march to “save $20 a week”. For one year that would be $1000. A great start to a savings.
    And the kicker is, as a business owner, I will be going through the same accountability program, since I’m not that great at saving either. Thankfully my office manager is a very savvy saver and is going to spearhead this program. Hopefully we can make an impact together on our saving habits.

    • That is awesome! I love the idea of helping and encouraging your employees to get their finances in order, it’s something that is much needed for most. That’s a great way to correlate savings to the message and $1,000 is the beginning to Dave Ramsey’s financial peace course. If your employees engage in the program, I can see it being a life-changing experience. Let us know how it goes! 

  • @cxwest

    I read Great by Choice – the 20 mile march is a great and helpful concept for leadership inside and outside the church, and you see the guys from OneThing Network defining their 20 mile march; every church multiplies every year, no more no less. As we equip next generation leaders to “edit” and “prune” the reams of information and opportuntiy that come at them daily, this concept could be a lifeline to making disciples who can follow Jesus’ command “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). The alternative seems to be to jump at every opportunity, and to continually seeking to increase our capacity while ignoring our God-given limitations #cxwest

    • Thanks for your input on the topic #CXWest. It’s amazing what we can get done when we focus on what’s important and make sure it’s done. How are you applying this to your life?

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  • jodyberkey

    I’m just starting to read your great content. (Thank you, Alana Mokma.) I see I have a lot of catching up to do. 🙂 I love the idea of the 20 Mile March. I shared your link with our endurance community. If we wait for perfect conditions to get out there and train, chances are we’ll never meet our goals.

    • You mean that strange girl Alana turned you onto my content? Uh oh. That’s stranger danger right there (-;

      Thanks for sharing the post with your community. I hope it encourages them and helps them to keep going and endure.

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  • RcMaFitness

    Excellent post, really! I’ve serious rituals & routines everyday. Somedays I feel ahead, somedays somewhat behind, but I keep telling myself — “Keep going, keep going! It isn’t perfect, but keep going, just keep going! It may sound too simplistic & perhaps somewhat cheap, but I’m after the end product (the ultimate goal). Thus in this case studying mindfully for some training tests. This too I’ve learned: Attitude is important, so I must pick a good one!

    • That’s exactly what we need to keep telling ourselves. It’s the forward movement and progress that gets us to the end goal.