Imagine you entered a great race—1,400 miles round-trip to the South Pole. You will face gale-force winds and temperatures as low as 20 below zero. How would you prepare your team to finish this journey faster than your competitor? In their book, Great By Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen tell the story of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott who engaged in such a race in 1911. The one who used the power of the 20 Mile March won the day.
Each team encountered the same percentage of bad days along their journey, but their behaviors made the difference. Scott pushed his team fast and far on the good days, allowing them to stay put on the difficult ones. Their average daily distance varied greatly.
Amundsen, on the other hand, instilled “self-control in an out-of-control environment.” On the best days, his team traveled 20 miles and no farther. On difficult days, they pressed on for 15 miles.
This disciplined pace instilled predictability while preventing exhaustion.
In the end, Amundsen and his team made it to the South Pole first, while Scott and his team didn’t make it back from their journey.
Collins and Hansen coined this steady forward progress the “20 Mile March.” This steady and disciplined approach is essential to achieving lifetime personal financial goals:
- Determine where you are and where you want to be.
- Plot any goals along the way.
- Create your own “20 Mile March” by establishing an attainable target each year. Set an upper limit so you don’t go too far too fast.
- Each year, make adjustments determined by the conditions you face. Not all obstacles and opportunities are predictable, but with a steady pace, you’ll be prepared to meet each one.
- As you meet each goal, reevaluate where you are, and create the next 20 Mile March.
Like the fabled tortoise, and Amundsen, that slow and steady pace will move you successfully forward.