I have just completed my second personal challenge in two weeks.
My current goal is simple. Every Sunday for the next 4 weeks I want to complete a different physical challenge. Each challenge is fitness based, but centres round a different element of fitness. Each challenge is not just about ‘getting it done,’ I have a goal, objective, and target that I am trying to either achieve or beat. Each goal is either something new, or something with a new target, something I can’t just turn up and do.
- Challenge 1 – Sunday 31st of October – Half marathon race – Goal – Complete in 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Outcome – On the wettest, windiest day East Anglia has seen in 2021 I completed the race in a time of 1.45.44.
- Challenge 2 – Sunday 7th of November – CrossFit ‘Murph’ workout – Two goals – To complete the workout in full for the first time ever, and to do it in under 60 minutes.
Firstly, what is Murph? See below
All completed consecutively and as quickly as you can.
Outcome 2 – I have been building up to attempting this challenge for 6 months. It’s absolutely gut wrenchingly brilliant, but brutal. Anyway, completed in 44.32.
Two challenges down, two to go.
Why I am doing this? Why I am sharing this, and what does it have to do with business and my professional life?
I have always liked sport and fitness. Like many people I played football (badly) as a youngster at school, at the weekend, and any time or place I could get a couple of jumpers down and the ball out. Everything changed however when I walked into the gym for the first time just after my fifteenth birthday. Firstly, hands up, yes I forged the form, lied about my birthday, said I was a year older, so I could be in the sweat box that had weights, running machines and the elusive punch bag.
What I realised very quickly was that fitness for me was about more than helping me to lose weight, get fitter or stronger. All of these things were important to me, but I realised fitness became about routine, repetition, personal challenge, pushing myself and focus. This had a positive impact not just on my health, but also my professional life.
Disclaimer. I lost my way with focused fitness for 4 years from aged 19 to 23. Bizarrely over the course of this 4-year period I studied for my degree and then masters in, believe it or not, Sport & Exercise Science. I blame temptation!
From age 23 when I re-entered work however, I was on it and on it big time. Firstly 10k races, then half marathons, fitness tests, a 24 hour football match for an amazing charity cause (hardest thing ever) and anything that required me to bite down, train hard and push myself. Let me be honest I’m not claiming Adonis or strongman status, but I was going for it and my career was doing the same thing.
Jump forward over a decade and by 2018 I was starting to struggle with balancing work, life and my desire to push myself physically. By this point I guess you could say I have a very full on and very challenging job, I was enjoying and enduring my first Managing Director position. Something had to give and unfortunately it was my fitness. By 2019 I weighed the heaviest I had in my adult life, was eating, and drinking badly and had lost something.
I came to realise was I had lost my competitive edge.
I am SUPER competitive. I would race you down the stairs. I would bet you I could flip a coin to heads more times than you. I want to win at work, play and everything in-between. Whether it be me personally, my team, my business, everything. Ultimately, I will take on any challenge, certainly if you goad me, and believe I will win.
By 2019 I was going through the motions professionally. I was still determined to win, but I’d lost my edge. I completed ZERO physical challenges during 2019. The first time I can remember this happening since 2003. Professionally I suffered. I struggled to clear my head. I struggled to switch off and I struggled for balance.
- Tip 1. Having a personal challenge forces you to have balance, it forces you to leave work and do something else.
2020, I am determined to get back on the horse. Determined to get competitive again. I kicked January off by running 100 painful miles to start shaking off the weight and lethargy of 2019. It went well. I felt better, my mind felt better and I tore into a new job, new challenge and new opportunity with full vigour on March 1st.
BOOM – GLOBAL HEALTH PANDEMIC.
We know the story from here as it was the same for so many people when it came to getting outside and exercising whilst balancing a job and the world we were in. I was also a very early adopter of Covid, getting it before the end of March 2020. My fitness focus took a back seat until late summer.
Coming into 2021 I was determined to get back ‘on it’ physically whilst also launching, building and scaling Digital 51.
- Tip 2. The challenge of something outside of work will keep you sharper in work. It will make you a better leader, team member and also more focused as you’ll feel separation.
One of the main reasons I find this happen is that sometimes it’s easier to feel progress and ultimately success with the things we do outside of work as they are under our control more.
So here I am finishing 2021 with 4 challenges in 4 weeks.
When I told a friend 6 weeks ago I was kicking off this series of personal challenges, they asked me:
‘Do you need this extra internal pressure right now, at this point, in a very busy year Simon?’
I did not even think about it. YES. 100% YES. I need it. It will make me sharper. It will push me, and it will keep me sane.
- Tip 3. Know yourself. Know your limits. Know your preferences. Know your comfort zone, then break the f*ck out of it.
Next Sunday I go again. Next Sunday it’s a combination of cardio and strength again, a test I have tried once before, but I now want to attack again; 60 minutes on the bike split into 5 minute intervals with push ups and pull ups in-between each interval.
A personal challenge certainly does not have to be physical, it can be whatever you need it to be; a side hustle, a hobby, renovating a boat, learning to ski, learning to speak another language. ANYTHING, as long as it’s not work, it’s not something you can just do and it requires you to push yourself.
So as I prepare for a couple more weeks of a challenges, then one big challenge in December. I challenge you to push yourself outside of work. I promise it’ll make you more successful in work and your career.