The 20-Mile March

I attended a leadership conference in New York City in early October of this year at the famed Radio City Music Hall where the speaker was Jim Collins, who wrote “Built to Last”, “Good to Great”, and his latest book, “Great by Choice”.  He shared a two part principle from his latest book on choosing to be great, in this context a great company or organization, which can be easily adapted to personal situations.

He shared the experience of two teams in 1911 that raced to be the first to the South Pole in Antarctica. One team was lead by a Norwegian Roald Amundsen, and the other team was led by Robert Scott from England. The principle is the 20-mile march.



Amundsen made the decision that his team would strive to do 20 miles a day no matter how bad the weather, or hard the terrain. His focus was on being disciplined enough to be consistent, and to make the hard decisions.



Scott’s approach was to do as many miles as possible on good weather days, but if the weather was bad to do a few miles or even stay in their tents to be protected from the elements.


Both approaches had merit, but it was Amundsen’s team that won.



Amundsen’s team beat Scott’s team, to the South Pole, by 34 days. It wasn’t even close! Amundsen was true to his 20-mile march principles. On a bad weather day maybe his team only did 13 miles but they tried their best to hit the 20 miles. Even on a few good weather days they only went 17 miles due to equipment failure or other set backs. But the next day the goal was the same–do 20 miles. Even more remarkable was when Amundsen’s team was only 45 miles from the South Pole. Instead of doing a great push to get there in one day, he still had the discipline to stay to the 20-mile march.

Where Scott chose ponies to pull them to the South Pole, Amundsen picked sled dogs. The dogs pushed one another harder and harder to keep going. But when the dogs became weak, Amundsen was prepared to shoot them, using their meat for food, keeping the whole strong.

I have shared these 20-mile march principles with my family, and co-workers. These principles are far reaching. For most of us, discipline does not come naturally. It is something we need to really work at. Setting a consistent short-term goal will get us and our families through even the most treacherous of life’s situations. Where we may not put our weak family members down, we still must make the hard choices of teaching doctrine and disciplining them with the strength of the Lord, so the family can continue moving forward.

We had our youngest child just return home from his mission. One key to successful missionary work is doing a 20-mile march every day. Knocking on so many doors, contacting so many members, teaching so many lessons, etc. Now that he is home he must maintain that discipline of consistency in his personal worship habits such as personal and family prayer; scripture study, holding Family Home Evening, Church attendance, etc. Each family member needs to have that personal worship habit in place to maintain discipline and strength to endure to the very end.



Other examples of 20-mile marches:




Job search–Getting 3 referrals every day, no matter what, never missing an opportunity to find the right lead or person that can direct you to your dream job.

Home organization–Keeping a cleaning, and organization, schedule consistently so the house is always clean, maintained, and open to the Spirit.

Callings–Preparing spiritually every day, with general doctrinal study, while preparing for lessons or assignments.

Home Storage, Family History, Temple Attendance, Overcoming bad habits, Practicing good habits, etc. Slow, steady, intense discipline, and making hard decisions that leave the world behind, will march you towards eternal life.


What will be your 20-mile march?