Personal Development

How to do 10,000 push-ups: Make a plan and stick to it

In our Vistage groups, we are dedicated to continuous improvement.  I have also observed that our leaders and executives typically have type-A personalities and can also be very competitive.

At our January meeting, we were discussing the goals and objectives of the coming year, when our member Brian pitched in, “My buddy challenged me to do 10,000 push-ups this year.”  Immediately we all groaned. Each of us could feel the pain. Although Brian is very physically fit, runs triathlons and is a skilled physician, we all thought this was over the top, even for him.

We thought he was a little crazy and most likely would fail. But then, our collective minds started processing and thinking about this challenge. How could he get this done?

 Set a goal – Even an impossible one

Whether your goal is to lose weight or to increase revenues and profits by 20%, you can’t get there unless you know where you are going. Make the goal clear, achievable, and (most importantly) communicated to all who can help you achieve it.

Make a plan & prepare

A good plan outlines the steps to achieve the goal. Usually there are multiple options available, but they all need to be clearly thought through. In Brian’s case, the right answer was a simple one. Do a little bit each day, and don’t wait until December and try to do a whole lot to catch up. Be consistent and build contingencies into the plan.


Stick to the plan but be flexible. Of course, in real life, something always goes wrong. But with a plan, you should have enough preparation and resources so that when something does go wrong, you can adjust. If you are injured or ill, you can take a day or two off to recover, and then continue.

The South Pole

“Antarctic Mike” Pierce is an inspirational athlete and speaker who not only completed a marathon in Antarctica, he also returned to complete a 100K endurance race (62.1 miles) there. In both instances, Mike had a plan, and through rigorous training and preparation, achieved both “impossible” goals.

The more famous example of achieving an impossible goal in the South Pole was the race to be the first to the Pole itself. In the book Great by Choice, Jim Collins outlines the story of the two expeditions in 1911.   The British party led by Robert Smith would travel as far as possible on the good weather days and then rest up on the bad weather days to conserve energy.

Conversely, Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s team adhered to a strict regimen of consistent progress by walking 20 miles a day every day no matter what the weather.  His team was capable of walking further on good days, but Amundsen insisted that they walk no more than 20 miles a day to conserve energy.

Consistency matters

In the end, Amundsen and his team arrived five weeks before Scott, and more importantly, Amundsen returned.  Scott did not survive.

I look forward to the day when Brian announces that he has reached his goal by following his plan through consistent, daily actions.

Now I am going to do 30 push-ups, just like I did yesterday, and the day before that…

Read more: Life is not a straight line

Category : Personal Development

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About the Author: Michael Malone

Michael Malone has spent more than 41 years in the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve. He has been a CEO and senior executive in several technology companies, and has been a Vistage Chair since 2005. You can learn more about becoming …

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