340 days: Step 2 – Focus

Quick recap: I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013. Tally so far: $925. And squeeze in some training for Ironman Lake Tahoe (and other events).

Ragnar Northwest Passage registration is open. Four commitments are in, 8 more to go…

Last Thursday we spent a little more time talking about STRESS. There is only one more day left for the online poll to determine who deserves a stress break. Go vote! Hurry!

Breaking news: As of this morning, Lance Armstrong is stepping down as chairman of LIVESTRONG, and Nike (along with Trek, Giro, Anheuser-Busch, and others) has announced they will no longer honor his endorsement contract. But LIVESTRONG will go on, and Nike and most of these other companies will continue their longstanding relationships with this cause. This is one area where Nike, these other companies, and I agree – I, too, will stand by LIVESTRONG. The whole cycling community continues to be shaken by the USADA findings and doping conspiracy… all across the board… not just Lance. Super nice guy Levi Leipheimer has been canned by Omega Pharma – Quick Step. George Hincapie has retired. And there will be so many more chips that fall. I’ll follow these developments as the long-term ramifications continue… but now back to normal business…

Yesterday I introduced the first step in my process when tackling a new challenge: Target. There are two things I keep in mind:

  1. I set my target high. Make it scare me a little bit. Or a lot.
  2. Go ahead and set a ridiculously lofty target… but build up to it.

So, now that you’ve set a target that is difficult, something that will stretch you and make you grow, and scares you a bit, you can kick back and magically wait while it spontaneously happens. Right?

Wrong. Though I don’t live far away from Hollywood, I actually don’t live in a fairy tale or land of make believe. Magic elves won’t prepare you to race a triathlon overnight while you sleep. The tooth fairy won’t raise money for charities on your behalf. The Easter bunny won’t sit in front of your computer for you and finish off that big work project. You need to do that.

But where do you start?

Whenever I set forth a challenge, the very next thing I do is FOCUS.

More specifically, I sit down and take current inventory of where I am relative to that goal. What assets do I have in place? What is already in place to help me reach that target? And then I make a plan.

When putting together a plan I try to keep a few key things in mind:

1) Make the plan structured.

When preparing to run the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach a few years back, I had an aggressive goal: run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In order to do that, I needed a plan that mapped out my training schedule every single day. This acted as daily motivation – for those days when I wasn’t certain what to do, or didn’t really want to go out for a run in the heat/wind/rain. I found a training program online from an expert that suited my starting level of fitness and where I wanted that fitness to be on race day. I ran 6 days a week. I ran along the beach. I ran during lunch breaks at the office. I even did a 21 mile training run on New Years Eve through the rainy streets of Paris while on vacation.

There are tons of great resources online and local organizations/coaches/mentors that will be more than glad to help you set up this plan (some for a fee, some for free). Some resources I’ve used in the past to help me plan out my goals: marathon, half Ironman, and fund raising. Look around. Ask people. Ask me. You would be amazed at how many people are more than glad to help.

2) Make the plan difficult, but not too difficult. Be realistic, but aggressive.

This is self-explanatory. If you make the plan too difficult, you will get discouraged and give up (like I feel some days with this $10,000 challenge – this is super hard!). If you make it too easy, you won’t grow and risk not reaching your aggressive, hard-to-reach target. Recall that old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Believe me, hell is manifested when you’ve undertrained (or overtrained, like I did for Napa 2011) for a marathon. Pure and utter hell.

3) WRITE THE PLAN DOWN

This is in capital letters for a reason. This is the single most important part of focusing toward your objective. Let me repeat for emphasis.

WRITE. IT. DOWN.

This forces you to think through the plan. To accept it. To make it your own. It is one thing if it is a table you printed out from a website that you can set aside – “it is just some dude’s plan from the Internet, right?”. But if you put it on paper, or transcribe it to a spreadsheet, or scribble it on blood on the sidewalk, you’ve been forced to spend time with it… to look at every planned workout or step in your plan, to confront and contemplate every single part of that plan.

Put this plan of yours someplace where you see it every single day. Where it stares at you, taunting you, forcing you to deal with it every day. More on this tomorrow… but don’t argue with me here. Seriously:

WRITE. IT. DOWN. (Everybody now! WRITE IT DOWN! WRITE IT DOWN! WRITE IT DOWN!)

And once you’ve done that. You have a plan. And you have FOCUS.

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