The principal is simple. You take a goal and you multiply it by a factor of 10 to establish a new bigger and much bolder goal.
Some of you have heard the story of the origins of my Sixty@60 Quest. I was looking for a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for turning 60. To give you a frame of reference, when I turned 50 years-old, I decided to do my first Ironman triathlon (a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2 mile run) which was a huge goal for me at the time. During the years that followed, I became a more studied and disciplined endurance athlete. So, keeping in the same vein of my previous milestone birthday, I thought I would do six Ironmans in one year when I turned 60.
This feat would be huge, I thought. Certainly, it was far beyond what I had ever done before. I casually mentioned it to a triathlete friend and she immediately told me that another local triathlete had done that very same thing a couple years before when he hit the big 6-0! Immediately, I felt the wind get knocked out of my sails. My big goal didn’t seem so big after all. In reality, there are definitely only a small number of people on the planet who have done six Ironmans in a year; my guess is that there are only a few dozen in any given year.
But I wanted something bigger. And that’s when the 10x factor came into my head. What if, instead of doing six Ironmans in a year, I did 60? I liked the sound of it, 60 at 60; but had anyone ever attempted such a feat? Was it even possible?
So back to the 10x Factor…while the principal is simple. The execution is not. Seth Godin said, “In order to make that forward leap, you need to trust yourself. To create space. To have the discipline to say no to distractions or even to projects that put you back in the 1x mode.”
In retrospect, as I look back on my 60 at 60 journey, much of what Seth said resonated with me. First, I had to “trust” myself. The fact is when you come up with a 10x goal, most people will tell you that you’re crazy and it can’t be done. In my case, it had never been done. The Guinness World Record for most Ironman triathlons in a year was 44. Because of all the naysayers, you have to be resolute. The fact is that if you don’t trust yourself, you’re going to be on very shaky ground and will likely abandon your goal before you ever start.
As Godin mentioned, I also had to “create space.” This space was critical for me to wrap my head around what I wanted to do and to help me process what I was going to need to do to succeed. Luckily, I came up with the goal well in advance of my 60th birthday, so I had three years to prepare. It may seem like a lot of time…and it was, but it gave me what I needed to work out all the kinks. Part of my process was to wrap my head around it sufficiently, so that I had a bullet-proof belief in my abilities. I often refer to it as doing “mental gymnastics,” because you really have to graduate to a totally new mindset it and that takes both time and effort. It’s not just something you flip a switch with and exclaim, “Oh hell yea, I got this!”
In order to build the proper belief in myself, I needed to eliminate the doubt and uncertainty that danced in my head. And to do that, I created a plan. It was to test myself like I’d never tested myself before. So, in the first half of 2016, I did 11 Ironmans on my own. And then I knocked out 15 more by the end of the year. Throughout it all, I learned what worked and what didn’t. I tweaked. I changed. I grew. And with that effort came confidence. And with that confidence came a newfound and unshakeable belief that I could do this.
I recently read that you should set goals that are so bold that you have to grow into the person that can achieve them. And that’s exactly what I did.
As I embarked on this journey, I also had to say no to distractions and other projects that would derail me from my ultimate goal. To hit a 10x goal, there has to be a relentless focus and discipline. There is no other way.
Seth Godin also noted, “The reason that there are so few 10x contributors isn’t that we lack innate talent. It’s that our systems and our self-talk seduce us into believing that repeating 1x work to exhaustion is a safer path.”
It’s my experience that systems and processes are not only needed, they’re critical. Going about things the same old way doesn’t cut it when your attacking a 10x goal. You need to increase productivity, eliminate wasted effort and become more efficient. This year, I’ve traveled the country (several times), continued to work with clients, all the while throwing in an Ironman every six days, on average. Needless to say, I have systems and processes for everything; even down to how I clean out my half-dozen re-useable water bottles after a race (while I’m traveling and without access to a sink and running water).
Last but not least, I whole-heartedly agree that we can’t let our self-talk seduce us into believing that repeating 1x work to exhaustion is a safer path. Instead, we have to use our self-talk to fortify and strengthen us. And we definitely need to eliminate the negative self-talk that can be our biggest enemy.
One of the lessons that so aptly describes my 60 at 60 Quest is that we are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. That is why, I believe, that we often sell ourselves and our goals short. The 10x Factor is a way to shake things up and really find new ways of tackling huge goals that will literally change who we are.