The 20 mile march towards your goals

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes.

Here’s one of my favorite stories from the book “ Great by choice” by Jim Collins. I am reproducing it verbatim here.

“Imagine you are standing with your feet in the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, CA looking inland.  You are about to embark on a 3,000 mile walk from San Diego to the tip of Maine.  On the first day, you march 20 miles, making it out of town.  On the second day you march 20 miles.  And again, on the third day you march 20 miles, heading into the heat of the desert. It’s hot, more than 100 degrees, and you want to rest in the cool of your tent.  But you don’t.  You get up and march 20 miles.  You keep the pace, 20 miles a day.

Then the weather cools and you are in comfortable conditions, with the wind at your back, and you could go much further.  But you hold back, modulating your effort.  You stick with your 20 miles.  Then your reach the Colorado high mountains and get hit by snow, wind, and temperatures below zero – and all you want to do is stay in your tent.  But you get up. You get dressed, and you march your 20 miles.

You keep up the effort – 20 miles, 20 miles, 20 miles – and then you cross into the plains and its glorious springtime, and you can go 40 of 50 miles in a day.  But you don’t.  You sustain your pace, marching 20 miles.

And eventually you get to Maine.


Now, imagine another person who starts out with you on the same day in San Diego.  He gets all excited by the journey and logs 40 miles the first day.

Exhausted by his first gigantic day, he wakes up to hundred-degree temperatures.  He decides to hang out until the weather cools thinking “I’ll make it up when conditions improve.”  He maintains this pattern – big days with good conditions, whining and waiting in his tent on bad days – as he moves across the western United States.

Just before the Colorado high mountains, he gets a spate of great weather and he goes all out, logging 40- to 50-mile days to make up lost ground.  But then he hits a huge winter storm when utterly exhausted.  It nearly kills him and he hunkers down in his tent, waiting for spring.

When spring finally comes, he emerges, weakened, and stumbles off towards Maine.  By the time he enters Kansas City, you, with your relentless 20 mile march, have already reached the tip of Maine.

You win, by a huge margin.”

The location references might be difficult for any one not familiar with the map of The US, but the message is crystal clear. Consistency is the key.

The 20-mile-march principle is all about consistency. It tells us that it is consistency and perseverance that get us to goals and not just motivation.

The principle is relevant in all areas of life and business.

Want to build a great business, identify your core area and deliver there consistently and relentlessly. Google might have ventured into and be successful in a thousand different domains, but they continue to develop their search algorithms consistently.

Want to run a marathon? Get out and run every day. Great athletes are not always the most talented. They are the ones who are consistent. Michael Jordan is one of the most talented and successful basketball players who ever played. What we don’t hear about him often is how he never missed a training session.

Want to write a novel, write those 500 words every single day. For all his initial novels, John Grisham wrote for 3 hours every morning before he had to go to the court (He was a lawyer). Even now, despite being hugely successful, he keeps a similar schedule. He writes for a few hours every day, and completes one novel every November. The same goes for other writers such as Haruki Murakami (He wakes up at 4:00 a.m. and writes till noon. Every day), and Kafka.

My goal is to publish a 100 articles a year, and my 20 mile march is to publish 2 articles every week. What is your goal? And what is your 20 mile march towards that goal? Identify the 20 mile march and keep marching. You will reach your destination soon and sure.

1 practical tip that can increase your chances of succeeding everyday

When I was learning how to drive, I had my great days, and my bad days. There were days I would drive like a pro, and other days when I would have trouble with simple gear shifts.

I kept wondering why this was the case. I kept thinking about what I was thinking and how I was driving and whether I was following my dad’s instructions right. I thought hard about how I could drive so well one day and be horribly bad on another. I couldn’t understand the inconsistency.

Then one day it occurred to me. I was looking at the wrong place. I was looking at my driving. The answer lay outside.

I found that I was a  genius driver on days when I had a win somewhere else. I was 18 then, and I was attending my first year of college. I realized that I was driving really well on days when I took a lot of wickets or scored runs (I was crazy about cricket), or if I had a good day at the quizzing club, or if I was in my favorite shirt. 🙂

And soon, another discovery followed.

I played better cricket on days when I drove well, or I was better at debating that day.

That’s when I realized that success was contagious. Not in the way that it spread from person to person. It spread from activity to activity.

This is called success momentum.

We have all heard of the success momentum already. Remember the saying “success begets success.”, Who or what did you think of when you heard the saying? Bill Gates, Ambani, or the next door rich neighbour?  🙂 You might have thought. “Yes. It’s true. Successful people become more successful. The rich become richer”

I will not argue with this. Yes, the odds to succeed at something increases if you are already successful at something else, and there is a reason for it.

But, where we are wrong is at a different point. When we hear “success begets success”, we think only of those big successes. A million dollar company, a jet setting CEO, or an all achieving athlete. We don’t realize that this adage applies to every kind of success. From the tiniest to the biggest.

That means, if you are successful at parking your car perfectly, it automatically increases your chances of giving a kickass presentation soon after.

Or if you are successful at just doing those 10 pushups in the morning, the chances of closing that sale is really high.

The dominoes affect
The dominoes affect

Success begets success. A win increases the odds of another win. This is true for even the smallest of the wins. It’s a natural process and there is a physiological reason to it (I am not going into the details of chemicals in the brain right now).

But I am going to tell you how you can get this to work to your advantage?

You do it by being intentional about small wins.  Plan your small wins. Don’t just hope that they happen. I would say, plan for a small win in the morning. Something really tiny (10 push ups in the morning, or writing 5 lines or rehearsing that dance routine for 10 minutes). And this win will propel your day forward.

One small win will give you enough confidence for another one, this one for another, and then another, and so on till it becomes an unstoppable juggernaut of wins.

So, get a small win today, and see how the day goes. Let me know if success momentum is working for you.

1 tip about multitasking that can make you 40% more productive.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

Strengths: Excellent multitasker.

This used to be a common line in resumes

I have written it, and I took real pride writing that.

And I can bet that you have also seen it on job descriptions (JDs)

Requirement: Have to be excellent at multitasking.

So, it does seem to be a necessary skill. An excellent one to have, right?

Of course, you might say.

So, you definitely need that 1 tip that I promised in the title. The 1 tip about multitasking that can make you super productive.

High-Octane Villain

A pretty simple tip, yet very important and effective.

Stop multitasking.

Yes. You read it right. Stop multitasking, and you will get more done.

Does it sound counterintuitive? Yes. But that’s what dozens of studies done in the last 5 years  tell us.

Multitasking isn’t a skill anymore. It’s more of an affliction.

We are chronic multitaskers. Send that email while you are on the phone, shave while maggi is on the stove (I do that all the time, and then eat burnt maggi), or watch the latest episode of suits while eating (we all do that).

So, why do we multitask, if it is as inefficient as the studies say it is?

We do it because we feel a sense of fulfilment. We feel like “ Wow! I am great. I managed to write an article, check all the emails, answer a few calls, and read the news. Wow! I must be superman.”

But the reality is that with multitasking, we might be able to check off more tasks on the list, but it is greatly affecting the quality.

And, like the illuminati (For the Dan Brown fans), multitasking has infiltrated every bit of our lives that we have accepted it as the norm than the exception.

Take a look at a familiar situation: your partner is talking to you about something important and the phone rings with a text message. How many of us can really resist picking up the phone and checking the message? Not me. Not many. What happens after that is “Ghar ghar ki kahani” (The story of every household).  🙂

Or, count the number of tabs you have open right now on your browser. 8, 10, or even 20? We don’t have the patience to wait for a webpage to open, so in the few seconds that we wait, we open another page.

Constant multitasking is waging a war on our attention spans. Chronic multitaskers have trouble focusing on any task for more than a few minutes, and there is not a deadlier productivity killer than a lowered attention span.

Not convinced? Studies show that we lose about 40% of our productive time to multitasking. They call this the cost of switching (

But all said, I am not actually qualified to write this, because I am myself a big offender. I am a big multitasker and I used to take pride in it. I make calls while driving, read articles while working, and even check emails while in the middle of a class.

But I have taken the first step. I am aware of the perils of multitasking and have started to fight it. So, I am not going to give you any solutions here yet. I will work on this for the next few months, and once successful, will report back to you on what worked and what didn’t.

Till then, you can look at a couple of articles that might help.

Also, hopefully, the companies will start listing unitasking instead of multitasking in the list of skills required, and consequently we will change our resumes too.