Hey leaders, are you still practicing?

It’s rapidly approaching Spring here in Ohio and this time of year often reminds me of high school track. I remember when the track season came around, those initial practices were hard. Even when I started running a couple of weeks before practice started, I was not in top shape. Honestly, the practices were hard for several weeks but eventually, they began to get easier. The actual workouts were not getting easier but I was getting stronger physically and mentally. After a couple of weeks, I could easily warm up with a 2-3 mile run, then run 440 yard repeats (Yea, I’m that old. We were still running yards, not meters.), with some 220s and 100s thrown in there just for fun. Daily practice prepared me for competition and helped me improve my personal bests.

As I moved into my professional life, the idea of daily practice was different. No longer did I have a coach driving my behavior. It was now up to me. I no longer had a compelling reason to practice. I needed to set my own goals so I had a reason to jog, lift, or make sales calls. I hate to admit that I “needed” to, but it’s pretty true. If I don’t have goals, it’s too easy to find excuses for not doing what I should and want to be doing. Similarly, if I have the same goal for too many months, I get bored. I need to change it up.

Last summer, our older daughter, Catie and I planned a 4-day backpacking trip to Olympic National Park. I had never gone backpacking and the idea of carrying a 40 lb pack was definitely a stretch goal for me. I knew that if I wanted to have fun with Catie, be safe, and not injure myself, I needed to get physically prepared. I had a new and exciting goal!! I found a backpacking workout and committed to working out 3x/week with an additional 2 hikes per week. This became my weekly practice. I started slowly, but consistently, and gave myself 3 ½ months to get ready.  I didn’t know if that was enough time or not, but as I progressed, I realized my regular practice was helping me achieve this goal. On August 4th, I hopped on that plane to Portland and felt ready. It was an incredible experience. I made it, felt great, and we had a blast! And, we’re planning another trip this summer! Now that I have a backpacking practice plan, I feel even more confident about my success this year.

Jeff and Catie backpacking at Olympic National Park
Jeff and Catie backpacking at Olympic National Park

In our book on leadership, The Coach and the Geek, Building a Kick-Butt Culture, Mark Adams and I describe a process of defining Hustle Stats (behaviors that require concentration and effort, but not talent). These are behaviors (i.e., practices) that we can control, and they will lead to good outcomes. Coaches define these Hustle Stats for their athletic team and run daily practices, so the team understands exactly what is expected of them. You can define them for your team, but you can also define them for yourself. We call these Personal Hustle Stats. Again, these are not the goals, but the behaviors that will lead toward the goals we want. Remember, my backpacking goal was to get in shape so I would have fun, be safe, and not get injured. But my Personal Hustle Stats (practices) were working out 3x/week plus 2 hikes per week (carrying successively heavier weight). I could control these practices and I knew it would lead me toward my goals.

If you are in a rut and setting goals isn’t working for you, or if you are getting bored because they are always the same, decide what Personal Hustle Stats you can commit to that will lead toward your goals? Keep it simple. Start simply with 2-3 Hustle Stats and practice them weekly, your confidence will skyrocket and you’ll rapidly move toward your goals. I welcome your comments and insight and would be glad to help you through this process. Just shoot me an email or give me a call.  Remember that all great things start one step at a time.

Keep having fun,


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