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Impacts of the 20 Mile March on Personal Lives


In the book Great by Choice, Jim Collins discusses several strategies that great companies use to overcome chaotic and tough times. One of the most outstanding concepts the author discusses is the 20 Mile March. It is based on the 10x principle that covers the strategies that great companies apply to overcome tumultuous events and attain success. Collins explores the concept by giving an analogy of two explores named Ronald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. Each of the two leaders had a unique strategy that aimed to help the teams arrive to the South Pole. The author gives the analogy to demonstrate how the various strategies that organizations use either work for them or against them. The 20 Mile March concept can be applied to personal life in many ways. This is possible through application of various principles that great companies use to navigate tempestuous periods and emerge successful despite the numerous challenges and obstacles they face along the away. Collins called the great companies 10Xers because they devised specific plans, followed them precisely and consistently, addressed challenges and never got side tracked by factors such as fear and temporary defeats.

The 20 Mile March

Amundsen and Scott were leaders of two trek teams that aimed to reach to the South Pole. Amundsen’s strategy was to walk 20 miles every day regardless of the weather conditions or the state of his team’s morale (Collins & Hansen, 2013). The team marched 20 miles daily without fail. Scotts’ plan was to take advantage of good weather and walk as much as they could and rest during days that had bad weather (Collins & Hansen, 2013). They sometimes marched for more than 40 miles on good days. On bad days, they rested and recuperated. The results of the trek were amazing. Amundsen and his team made it to the South Pole while Scott and his team died on the way (Collins & Hansen, 2013). The two teams achieved different results primarily because of their strategies and how they applied them. In personal and professional life, achievement of success depends on the effective application of the 10X principle. I have realized that I attain my goals when I consistently do the little actions that take me closer to the goal even when I do not feel like doing them.

Impact of the 20 Mile March on personal lives

The 20 Mile March is excellent because it can be applied to both organizations and people’s lives. In life, many people fail to achieve their goals and dreams because they lack specific strategies that empower them to keep on going regardless of the many challenges and obstacles they encounter (Hussey, 2000). There are several principles that are applicable to organizations and individual’s lives that can be derived from the 20 Mile March concept. They include self-control, performance markers and constraints, responsibility, and consistency. In my life, I have realized that failure to achieve goals emanates from lack of a good strategy and the propensity to give up when times become tough. In the beginning of any project, I get very excited and focus all my energy and time on its completion. I begin it with gusto but slow down after some time due to burn out and obstacles that stall my progress and diminish my drive. In other instances, more appealing projects or options appear and sidetrack me.

Organizational change and transition is one of the areas that the 20 Mile March can be successfully applied. In many organizations, employees resist change because of the fear of the unknown, loss of control, lack of competence, poor timing, lack of rewards, lack of support system, lack of trust, and poor communication (Burke, 2010). In such cases, organizations need to develop strategies to help employees deal with change through gradual introduction. In personal life, people are also afraid of change because they do not know how to implement it. One of the lessons from the 20 Mile March analogy is need for performance markers. In my efforts to achieve my goals, I need to decide what the lower bound of acceptable achievement should be. For instance, for Amundsen and his team it was 20 miles a day. For example, individuals need to decide the amount of hours they are willing to put in every day or week in order to attain their goals (Hussey, 2000). On the other hand, upper bound constraints ensure that I do not give in to temptations to overwork that could affect my goal-attainment strategy. It is important for organizations and individuals to create their own 20 Mile Marches based on their resources and capabilities (Burke, 2010). In creating goals, people need to consider their capabilities and refrain from comparing themselves to other people. In addition, they should factor in their personalities, environment, and other life commitments. It is important for organizations to treat employees individually because they possess different personalities and capabilities that determine their goals and strategies (Hussey, 2000). Organizations need to take full responsibility for their success and know that external forces cannot stop them from attaining their goals and objectives if they are fully committed (Collins, 2001).

Another important concept is the need to set goals that are under one’s control and reject the idea that external forces determine the outcome achieved. In life, there are many uncertainties that bring unpredictable and uncontrollable situations. I refrain from setting goals whose outcome is out of my control. This is important because it is impossible to control factors such as the weather, people’s responses and behaviors, economy, or organizational policies. It is important for people to realize that the only factors they can control include their personal responses, effort, willingness to implement their plans, and the readiness to sacrifice and keep pushing. Amundsen and his team attained their goal because they were willing to disregard the bad weather and unfavorable times and keep on walking (Collins & Hansen, 2011). They understood that they could not control the weather but they could control their drive and willingness to succeed. People need to make personal commitments that they will keep working towards the attainment of their goals despite the state of external factors that they cannot control or influence.

Consistency is another important concept that can be derived from the 20 Mile March. Scott and his team reached their destination because they were consistent in the application of their plan (Collins & Hansen, 2011). In life, it is tough to attain any goal without being consistent. Consistency helps people to attain success in their personal and professional lives. In the implementation of change, success comes from adhering to the change program and doing the tiny activities that will ultimately bring success (Luecke, 2003). Organizational change is very important especially during times of transition. Scott failed because he only went towards the goal when times were favorable. Maintaining consistency inculcates other behaviors such as self-discipline, self-control, and pertinacity (Luecke, 2003). People attain their personal goals by creating clear, concrete, achievable, and intelligent plans that keep them on the right track despite the challenges faced along the way. I have learnt that creating a step-by-step plan for goal achievement and sticking to it is the best strategy for achieving success in both personal and professional life. The discomfort experienced should be taken prudently because there is temptation to overwork when conditions are good and relax when conditions are unfavorable (Collins & Hansen, 2011).

Application of the 10X principle

The 10X principle can impact a real-world situation significantly if understood and applied appropriately. For instance, when I made a transition from high school to university, managing my finances was very challenging. Therefore, I devised a plan that would enable me to make and save more money. The plan involved saving 15% of the money I earned into a savings account. My goal was to save at least $1000 during my sophomore year. The plan worked during the first three months because I was full committed and followed my plan strictly. After the fourth month, I made new friends that lured me into a lifestyle that involved a lot of spending. I stopped saving money and became a spendthrift. It was during my second year that I came back to my senses and started saving again. The lessons learnt served me well because I saved consistently and only used the money left after deducting the savings. At the end of one year, I had attained my goal because I had save $1100. Discipline, self-control (delayed gratification), and consistency were responsible for my success.

Importance of the topic in regard to my personal situation and values

The topic is very important as it related to my personal situation and values because application of the 20 Mile March principles determine whether I succeed or fail. For instance, in order to reap the benefits of values such as patience, self-control, hard work, conscientiousness, and compassion, I need to practice them every day without fail. This consistency ensures that they become part of my character and personality. On the other hand, in order to achieve my personal goals (personal development, finance, and relationships), I need to work on them every day despite the prevailing circumstances.


The 20 Mile March concept is an important principle to apply in organizations and personal life. Individuals need to move forward consistently every day to ensure that they achieve their goals and avoid any temptations that could sidetrack them. Consistency inculcates other important traits such as determination, self-control, discipline, and grit. The 20 Mile March cases explored by author show that in the journey of attaining goals, the skills and resources that one has are not as important as the readiness and commitment to do the work that is required every day to achieve the desired outcome. Creating a good strategy and sticking to it regardless of the prevailing circumstances is a very important factor in attaining success. Application of the 20 Mile March concept gives individuals confidence in their ability to achieve personal goals because they keep moving on despite the prevailing circumstances or obstacles faced. I learnt about the validity of the principle when working on my goal to save $1000 in one year. I attained the goal by saving little amounts consistently every time I earned money. I kept moving forward despite the many temptations to spend more money and give up.


Burke, W. W. (2010). Organization Change: Theory and Practice. New York, NY: SAGE.

Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. New York, NY: Random House Business.

Collins, J., & Hansen, M. T. (2013). Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck-Why some Thrive Despite Them All. New York, NY: Random House.

Collins, J., & Hansen, M. T. (2011). How to Manage Through Chaos. Web.

Hussey, D. E. (2000). How to Manage Organizational Change. New York, NY: Kogan Page Publishers.

Luecke, R. (2003). Managing Change and Transition. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press.

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