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The 20-Mile March to Greatness

November 3rd, 2011 12:13 PM by Lehel S.

The 20-Mile March to Greatness


We love to see "over-night success!" We wonder how we could create the next "BIG THING" or a video that "goes viral" and gets millions of viewers (and customers!) in a few short days. We love stories of sudden fame and extraordinary success!


But, we also know that most over-night sensations work hard until their moment finally arrives. Their "big break" comes after years of laboring in obscurity until suddenly, one day, we're all amazed! It's a wonderful story, but the reality seldom matches the romance.


This week I read Jim Collins' new book, "Great by Choice,"

his study of companies who are at least TEN TIMES BETTER than their competition. It's an extraordinary read, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to take your company to the top, make a name for yourself, or achieve outstanding success.


What caught my attention right at the start was his side-by- side comparison of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott, two men who raced to reach the South Pole in 1911.


Amundsen was slow and methodical, precise and disciplined.

He limited himself to travelling only 20 miles a day, even when the weather was perfect and he could have covered twice that distance. He slogged 20 miles, then made camp. Even on sunny days, with warm weather and calm winds, after 20 miles he rested, repaired equipment, and maintained his discipline. Then, when the weather was terrible, he and his men were strong enough to cope with the worst conditions.

And make their 20 miles, no matter what.


Scott, in contrast, was a true adventurer. He was eager, ambitious, and courageous. He covered miles as quickly as he could, seizing every moment of good weather to push closer to his ultimate goal. He was in a race, with fame and glory to the winner, and little reward for second place! He accepted that sometimes exhaustion or bad weather made travel impossible, but he knew he could make it up when things improved, tomorrow or the day after.


Eventually, two notable things happened. Amundsen won the race to the South Pole by more than 30 days and had covered almost 500 miles of his return trip by the time Scott reached the Pole, only to find Amundsen's tent, flag, and a letter he had left, waiting for him.


The second notable thing was that Scott and his party froze to death on the ice after struggling for 1600 miles, just 10 miles short of their supply camp and safety.


Collins and his co-author, Morten Hansen, repeatedly make the point that greatness is the result of specific planning, discipline and commitment. They even have a formula that leads to greatness: SMaC, which stands for Specific, Methodical, and Consistent.


In study after study, they show that GREAT companies and great leaders follow this simple formula. Winners develop an effective strategic plan, and stick to it day after day, year after year, no matter what. From Southwest Airlines to Intel, to Amgen, and many others, winning companies consistently out-perform their competition by factors of TEN TIMES by avoiding the "flash and dance" in favor of steady, consistent RESULTS.


It's the old story of the tortoise and the hare, up-dated for modern times. In our age of over-night sensation, instant fame and global competition, it is still true that steady, methodical performance wins the race!
Posted in:General
Posted by Lehel S. on November 3rd, 2011 12:13 PM



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