Having just completed the 5×50 Challenge (I did 360km in 50 days, the equivalent of a marathon a week for 7 weeks). I thought I would write about how it was for me and compare it to the two other things I know a lot about, running a start-up software company and golf.
In January 2012 I started a company nooQ, developing a social software platform for business.
I have been playing golf since I was 12 currently I play off three and was scratch at 19 and have represented my club and played in county & national championships.
I’m not much of a runner too big boned if you like but I do enjoy it. I have also been doing indoor rowing which my larger frame is more suited too.
There are too many similarities between them all, transferrable skills if you like, so I thought I’d combine them into this blog. Like so many doing 5×50, I also have a day job, I travel and commute a lot plus I have a family with two kids so for me this was also a challenge in planning and time management.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, your experiences and any other similarities you have found between work, sport and home life.
1. Startups 2. Running 3. Golf
1. Plan, remove barriers to failure, keep trying, don’t give up if you have an off day. Time management and being organised is crucial. This also includes housework etc. Outsource and delegate jobs to allow you to focus and have more time.
2. Get kit ready, in place, remove barriers to starting it. Families need to support you and give you time to achieve your goals. Be grateful and say thanks. Exercising everyday generates a lot of nasty washing. Get creative, I did an experiment and an hour’s walk round those huge supermarkets, is almost 5k. Every little helps.
3. Have the correct equipment, in top condition, custom fitted, maintained. Plan your events, what swing and shots to improve. Golf takes a long time to play and practice. It’s a selfish game, same principles as start-ups and running also apply.
1. 10 mile marches like in Jim Collins Great by Choice. You could do more, but need endurance to do it everyday. Some people can do 14 miles when its nice outside.
2. 5×50 Challenge. The hardest part is starting. Don’t let weather stop you. Keep at it.
The first 20 mins are hard no matter how fit you are, accept it. The buzz afterwards lasts all day.
3. Practicing in all weathers, trying to conquer self-doubt, self belief committing to tough shot when trouble is all round. Like in golf, you mentally block out and ignoring the water around an island green.
1. Everyone wants success for their company. How are you going to get there? What more do you need to learn, what skills to add, testing yourself, improving yourself and others, compete with the best and learn from them.
2. Long term, fitness levels and health up. Not following usual piling on the pounds every year.
3. Dream big. Focus on preparation, how to improve, have a measurable score or golf handicap goal by a given date
1. Hardest part is starting. Push yourself to achieve what you didn’t think you could do. Think how much you are learning and achieving everyday. Lead by example.
2. Big challenge. Hardest part is starting. Just Do It.
3. Positive thoughts & mental attitude, focus on target, one swing thought only. Grip it and rip it.
- Self Doubt
1. Everyone has them. Keep a good news log, congratulate yourself on small victories and progress
2. There is lots of others doing it everyday, don’t let them down.
3. Create a video memory of all the times you hit a great shot. Ignore the past, that does not define your future
1. Sweat the small stuff. Block out distractions, say no anything that doesn’t move you closer to your goals. Surround yourself in right group of people who also believe your success is possible. Embrace change.
2. Plan it into your day, make appointments to exercise. Don’t be late. Small determined steps consistently. Ingrain new habits. Clocking up a few miles everyday builds up
3. Top golfers are obsessive about checking the basic fundamentals. Everything comes from starting from the right foundations. If your aim is of the best swing in the world is not going to help. Changing habits is hard but bad habits will never lead to success.
1. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. For a few years, Live your life like most people wont to spend the rest of you life like most people cant.
2. Not everyone will take up the challenge, but it can be done. Hopefully you will inspire others to follow suit. You cannot fake fitness, you have to work at it daily.
3. Golf cannot be perfected; it is an obsession trying to perfect physics against near impossible odds with a lot of outside factors out with your control. Accept that and enjoy the challenge. in it for the long term. Golf is 90% losing, wins are rare. Focus and prepare for winning but accept failure and learn from it.
1. Surround yourself with the best. Slow to hire but quick to fire. Entrepreneurial Spark is a great place which is full of motivated, inspirational achievers. Hire smarter people than you and let them get on with it.
2. Lots of others doing it great community spirit. Surround yourself with others at a higher level than you to encourage you to improve.
3. Get the best coaches who you work well with. Ryder cup, once one person can see success the more others want it and get there, like Rory McIlroy, he pulls everyone along in Europe.
- Pitching / Putting your self out there
1. Practice, practice, practice. You maybe nervous inside but project confidence. Body language matters. There’s a billion people in China who don’t know or care about what you are doing.
2. Never easy being middle age man in lycra in public. No one looks long at red faced, sweaty men.
3. First tee nerves. No hiding from not practicing. Golf cruelly exposes even the best prepared. Think Seve and body language and confidence. It’s only a stupid game, it doesn’t define you as a person.
- Keeping Score & Competitions
1. Some fake it. Can be subjective. Companies can have billions in turnover but no profit. We are the number 1, award winning beach hut supplier in Siberia doesn’t mean much. Fake’s will get found out over long term although out of the three there are far more fakes and cheats. Pitching your business competitions, it’s rarely the ones I think deserve it or has great potential who win them. Thank goodness I’m not a gambler.
2. Quantitative. Better times only come with more effort. Easy to compare against experts. My focus was just seeing how much I could improve and I did set new personal bests. Compete the same when no-one is watching as to when everyone is watching.
3. Subjective & Quantitative. Weather, course and conditions matter affect score and its relevance. Its not how its how many. It’s not always the guy with the latest carbon fibre titanium gear and suntan who wins. The old duffer who hits it straight 200 yards and chips and putts will always beat the guy who bombs 300 yard drives and three putts. The one where cheating is abhorred. Punishments for cheating are longer than for murder. Logic is not prevalent in golf.
Overall I only had 5 days I remember dragging myself to do it when I had absolutely no notion. The first six days pretty easy, the first two weekends were tough going but once you have done it once, it’s not so bad. After 24 days I enjoyed my new habits and took strength from the fact, I knew I would complete the challenge. In the middle of the 5×50 I also set myself a challenge of doing 10k everyday for 10 days which I also completed. I was doing 6k or 4k splits between rowing and running. This was much, much harder physically especially running everyday without rest. One Monday night I was rowing at 10pm doing 6k in my garage, I had not notion that day but just to complete my kilometres it had to be done. Like start-ups you have to have that determination, belief and stubbornness. Having completed the challenge looking back I only had a handful of bad days and feel much more positive having done it, overcome a challenge and changed my habits for the better.
I heard a speech in May by Sir Jackie Stewart who said he preferred to hire people who were either from an army background or who had achieved top levels in sport. People who swim at 4am everyday for years or have the self awareness to continually push themselves, have self awareness, intense focus, drive and determination are generally great attributes to have in business. Likewise those in the army, who plan everything are resilient and even when things go wrong can still deliver. Now more than ever, I can readily identify with what he meant.