Tackling an Ironman….Good-to-Great Style.

I just finished reading Jim Collin‘s book, Built to Last. The book is a research of some of the most successful companies in the world. It reminded me of his other book, Good to Great.

In Good to Great, Jim distilled 5 years of research into a handful of principles. He is dissecting what makes an average companies to become great.

When I thought about these principles, it reminded me how closely it resembles
my training leading up to my first Ironman this year.

i) Hedgehog concept

There are many different approaches to training for triathlon. Many different training metholodogies and principles. Unlike a fox that tries many different methods, I sticked with one.

I focused on building my aerobic engine. My key sessions per week are one long swim, one long bike and one long run. That was my focus for the past two years. This year, I focus that even more so. I will even miss and skip training to get my body 100% for the long bike and the long run.

ii) Confront the Brutal Facts

In 2005, when I first thought of doing an Ironman, I cannot swim freestyle. I can still remember vividly every day in the winter of ’06, waking up at 5:30 am, walked to the pool and swim for an hour.

The brutal fact is that I can’t swim. I look at what I can do and do everything i can to learn to swim.

iii) BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

I choose Ironman b/c it is hard. I choose Lake Placid because it has the toughest terrain compare to all the other Ironmans. During my two years of training, I choose the hilliest bike routes and running paths I can find. I will always scout for tougher climbs in my area and incorporate them into my training.

I train in the hottest and the coldest weather. I go longer and further than I ever thought I could (or would). Every ‘torture’ session my brain comes up, I will go do them.

iv) Flywheel concept

It did not take one or two sessions to train for an Ironman. It took 2 years of consistent training. Day in and day out. Each week slowly building the aerobic engine.

v) A Culture of Discipline

This is pretty much self explanatory. It ain’t natural to get up 5 am in the morning. I did little to instill myself to get up. There is little self butt kicking or alarms to get up.

This year, every day I had one focus. Get myself and my body for Ironman Lake Placid.

vi) To-do and not-to-do list

To maintain the core ideology (do an Ironman), not only do I have a list to do (training etc.), there is also a not to do list. The not to do list are items that does not align to my core.


– Going out late on Friday night will prevent me from focusing 100% on my bike ride on Sat. That is in my not-to-do list.

– drinking and eating junk food prevent my body from faster recovery. That’s in my not-to-do list.

– eating veges, fruits promote faster recovery and reduce chance of sickness. That’s in my to-do list.

In Built to Last, Jim also discovered that the companies that are visionary have one thing in common. They are fanatical and create cult-like culture. Take Disney for example. Disney is so into making a fun atmosphere for the kids that any employee caught using the Sh!t word will be fired. It doesn’t matter if the employee is a VP or a janitor. Same rules apply. To enhance making Disney as a magical place, each person job is consider a ‘role’ in the stage.

Those who know me can clearly see my ‘obsession’. From my training, to my diet, to my lifestyle, to where i spent my money, they are all align to one goal, Ironman.


By Cliff

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