When was the last time you tackled something difficult? We all know that doing something difficult is not only challenging but requires 2 things:

  1. Motivation
  2. A deep desire to change

Do you have someone in your personal or professional life that pushes you to do the hard things? If you do, you are blessed. 

My friend Matt has been one of those people in my journey. Matt is a successful entrepreneur, father, and adventurer. He has a “wild at heart” mindset and is always striving to be better and conquer the difficult. If you’ve never read the book Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, I highly recommend it.  

Here’s the story.  Back in 1999, I was at my house and the phone rang. I immediately recognized Matt’s voice, and he said with tremendous excitement, “there is an up-coming Marathon that is taking place this May in Cincinnati called the Flying Pig. Let’s do it!” He then shares that the race is the marathon’s “inaugural running,” and it would be a fun and challenging adventure. Honestly, I’m on the other side of the phone thinking to myself, “there is no way I’m running a marathon.” Matt then shared that he had done all the research, he has charted a training program that will lead us through the winter. He then reinforced to me in his ever convincing voice, “We can do this!” 

Let me pause for a moment.  I want you to think of a time when you have been challenged to accomplish something that you knew in your mind was going to be difficult. 

  • How did you respond? 
  • What was your reaction? 
  • Did you shut down the idea or open yourself up to new possibilities? 

Let me tell you what I did.  I informed Matt that I was happy that he is so excited, however, the one big problem is that I’ve never even run a 5K, much less a marathon. Yes, you read that correctly. Everything in my body wanted to say no, but for some reason, “yes” popped out of my mouth, and I couldn’t get it back. 

That winter forever changed me. His plan included a full running schedule from Hal Higdon that broke down this monumental mission into day by day activities that would lead us to the goal. If you are interested in running a road race of any type, check out the following website – www.halhigdon.com

At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate that the day-by-day program placed me in a completely different mental state of positivity, with small wins leading me to a huge win. The journey started with us running less than three miles, and within 18 weeks, we were running 20 miles. If you had told me to focus on just the 20 miles, I would have shut down and become overwhelmed. I would have gone into change resistance mode because it would have been too much change at one time, which would have filled me with anxiety and stress and I never would have started. Instead, we took it day by day, and we had accountability. Was it easy – no way. However, I will never forget running on the bike trail at 5:00 AM on snowy mornings in the middle of an Ohio winter with a running light on my head. In the end, we completed that marathon together and even beat our goal time of running it under four hours.  

Here is the point:  Success doesn’t happen on its own, and you can’t bypass the hard work as we move into the new year “goal setting” season.  I want to encourage you to reduce your tendency to be hyper-vigilant on the end goal and start focusing on the day to day learning agenda that builds a performance plan and ultimately, goal achievement.  When you write down a goal, ask yourself this question – when I think about this goal, what plan is needed to perform and reach this goal? Don’t proceed until you answer this question.

Here are a few learning agenda tips for tackling difficult journeys.    

  • Get in the right mindset
  • Do your research
  • Break down the learning plan into micro-steps
  • Find an accountability partner
  • Stay at it every day
  • Celebrate the small wins
  • Never give up 

Thanks to Matt’s leadership and friendship, I have embraced the joy of running for 20 years and have completed multiple marathons, countless half marathons, and yes, even a few 5Ks. If you want to be the best, then you must do the work. Best of luck accomplishing something great as you close out 2020 and dream forward into 2021.