Lessons from a Push-Up Challenge

A couple of years ago, Ken Perry shared a challenge he was undertaking. One push-up a day—add a push-up per day. As a bit of a competitive person at heart, it didn’t take long for me to accept the challenge myself.

Sounded simple enough, especially in January. To be honest, it almost felt weird doing just one push-up that first day.

But as the months wore on—and the number went up—the challenge became harder and harder. Starting in late October, I was doing more than 300 push-ups per day. And because 2020 was a leap year (of course it was), I ended with 366 push-ups on December 31.

In case you’re curious, that added up to a total of 67,161 push-ups throughout last year.

Here are some lessons I learned (or was reminded of) along the way:

It feels good to finish what you start

There is definitely satisfaction in finishing something (especially something hard). I hate to admit it, but I’m not naturally a finisher—which sometimes causes me to walk away from things too soon. But I’m glad I stuck it out to the end—it definitely makes me want to swing big with another goal or challenge in the future.

Accountability is key

Big goals mixed with accountability is a great recipe. Share your goals with others so you can be encouraged along the way. Accountability doesn’t have to be overly structured or scary but can be extremely effective. It was great to have colleagues and friends checking in and asking me how the challenge was going. Plus, knowing that others are pulling for you and invested in your goals can be a difference-maker, especially in a season of isolation like we find ourselves in now.

Reframe your goal

If the task is big, find creative ways to break it into smaller, more doable chunks. 300 push-ups seemed like a huge task. Six sets of 50 push-ups were much more manageable. Each set I completed also felt like a little win and helped to keep me motivated throughout the day.

Start earlier in the day

Get ‘em done. Getting the push-ups done earlier in the day always made a difference. Try to get your important stuff done early in the day so it’s not hanging over you—plus you are more likely to make sure it gets done. Trying to knock out 100 push-ups right before bed is never a great way to end a day.

Be honest with yourself

Don’t cheat yourself. On days where I was a bit foggy on how many push-ups I had left, I always did extra just to be sure. Integrity starts with keeping your promises to yourself.

Know when to quit

Don’t be afraid to walk away if you need to. I actually attempted this challenge the previous year but had to stop in June because of a shoulder injury. I reset and tried again last year—and felt stronger and more prepared through the entire experience. No shame or guilt if you need to stop for the right reasons. (Perseverance can be overrated at times.)

While I’m sure every experience is different, my hope is that you can apply some of these lessons as you undertake your own challenges and chase big goals this year in both your leadership and life.


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