Half-Time: How to Master the Run-in to December

Five years I was invited to assist at an endurance event called Worlds Toughest Mudder. 

And boy was it ever an endurance race.

The race itself took place over four hours, requiring participants to complete as many laps of a 400m track as they could, in between an exercise station that required an obscene number of push-ups, pull-ups, step-ups and any other -up you can imagine every single time they came around.

I learned a lot that day about limits.

I learned that the physical limitations that most of us believe exists - the "I'm done" wall - is actually only about 60% of what's possible for most of us. It's kind of like a limiter designed to keep your speed at "normal" levels, but not the actual top end by any means.

The extension of that was the insight into how much of a role mindset, self-belief and a willingness to endure plays when it comes to elite performance.

Amongst this though one observation fascinated me.

Not every competitor finished, not by a long shot. The race, like many of this kind, was actually designed to prove too hard for at least 50% of participants to complete.

However, when it came to those who pulled out, 90% of them did so within the first 40 minutes.

I've seen it from the inside too.  

When I signed up to take part in something called Hell Week (also run by Original Bootcamp), I found myself on the receiving end of a drill sergeant style experience,  watching on the first day as he walked up and down the line of my fellow participants looking for those who wouldn't make it beyond Day 1.

I still remember the moment he stopped next to me and locked eyes with the unfortunate object of his attention.

"You're done", he said to her flatly, "There's no shame in quitting if you don't belong here, which you probably don't. If you don't go now, you'll be gone by the end of the day. Save yourself, us, the time"

Sure enough, five minutes later she dropped out.

Harsh? Maybe, but whether she jumped or was pushed (slightly), he called it right.

Since then this insight has manifested itself in a personal belief that momentum, the willingness to keep going if you can, is key.*

* I also wanted to add that whilst a willingness to keep going is key, that doesn't mean that quitting isn't sometimes the best choice. I personally found Seth Godin's book The Dip to be an invaluable tool at least twice in my life as to whether the better course of action was to endure or not.

We're now almost at the halfway mark for the year.  

Depending on how things have gone, you might have experienced one of four different scenarios.

So, I wanted to share a little about how, at this key turning point between start and finish, how to make it a great 12 months regardless of where you're at.

It's something I've been doing recently with many of you on the Leveraged Advice Firm program, so this may feel familiar. Still, it never hurts to reiterate some of it.

Scenario #1 - Nailing it

If you find yourself bang on track, where you intended to be, or even ahead of the game, then take a moment to give yourself a little recognition.

It's not been an easy year by any measure, so if you've managed to take everything that's been thrown in your direction and serve it back with a portion of "them apples", then I think you deserve to take a moment to congratulate yourself (and your team).

Not just because it feels good to do it, but because one of the most common traps I see "high achiever" personalities fall prey to is spending most of their time setting new goals and not enough time recognising how far they've already come.

Great recipe for success. Terrible way to avoid burnout.

I've seen businesses streak ahead in the first half of the year, not manage their energy, and end up running out of juice about August (happened to me last year). 

That's why it's key to manage energy, not just time. In other words, keep going but also take some time to recognise the achievement and, ideally, book the downtime (reward, even) you deserve.

Scenario #2 - Good in some places, not so much in others.

It's very, very normal to get to the halfway point and realise that it hasn't panned out exactly as planned.

It's one of the reasons I've always approached business planning as a

blueprint-style exercise instead of a "stone tablet" thing.

I subscribe to the Business Modell Canvas way of thinking that suggested,

"In cases where a business model is untested or new (or the industry is in such a state of flux as to make it hard to predict with accuracy what the environment will be), traditional business plans are ineffective. Instead, a more fluid approach that allows faster ideation, testing and adaptation of plans is required".

Can't really argue about the "flux" part, right?

So, you might find yourself on track with certain things and maybe off track with other things, which is pretty normal and may not actually be about underperformance as much as your plan having shifted a little.

Questions worth asking here are:

  • Are certain projects or work dominating your time more than you thought?
  • Have certain parts of the plan become less relevant
  • Are there demands on time that weren't expected back in January?
  • Are there personal or team factors that are impacting?
  • Have you been implementing as you'd planned to?  

Answering those questions can often uncover one or two key issues that would otherwise stop you from achieving anything until addressed.

This year in particular has been up and down, mostly up, but definitely some challenges.

Scenario #3 - Started well, got lost along the way,

Mike Tyson once famously commented, "Everyone has a plan until they get hit..." He could as easily been talking about business as much as boxing. 

You might have found yourself starting off well, but somewhere along the line, it's got lost in the maelstrom and now you're wondering if you've left it too late.

If you found yourself being knocked off stride somewhere between Jan and June, now is the perfect time to refresh yourself of the original intention and direction, re-align the focus (yours and the teams) and get back onto the original trajectory.

You may even realise that you may have been a little over-ambitious (we've all done it at one time or another), or tried to do too much at once.

Recognising that's what's happened and you can still make it a great year regardless can often help you work out whether to double down & isolate yourself to make progress, reduce scope, get better at managing your time, adopt some new habits, look for alternative ways (or help) to get it done, and stop being such a perfectionist and launch faster.

Scenario #4 - Really? July already????

If you've been hit from all sides by fifty different things you didn't see coming and a bunch you did but couldn't help, you can still nail it.

Everyone loves a comeback story, and often simply wiping the slate clean is all that's needed.

In truth, I've worked with many firms who reached this stage of the year - sometimes even later - but by applying some 80/20 thinking and resetting instead of trying to rescuel found themselves having achieved 80% of the result in 50% of the time, starting by looking at the problem in four ways:

  • What could you not actually need to do and still achieve an 80% result?
  • What could you do more easily and with less effort and still get to 80%?
  • What might it be time to delegate and hand over to your team (or, if not get 0%)?
  • What might actually need some external assistance?

Half-time is the potential turning point in the game.

As any sports fan will tell you, it's the line-in-the-sand between what's come and what's about to come.

I've seen businesses race out of the blocks only to lose it all in the second half. Others fall far behind yet refocus and make it a very memorable year.

No matter where you're at, what you've done and what you haven't. Sit down. Get some headspace. Ask yourself what you need to do from here. Make sure that you haven't picked up any unnecessary baggage, focused on the wrong things or said yes to too much. Reconnect with your why. Make sure your projects are still the ones that are relevant.  Make the changes required and find the time you need.

Game on.

Related: Elite Advisors of the Future Will Be Wearing These Two Hats