Obstacle #257,876 – The 20 Mile Race that Never Happened

Climbing Obstacles

“He’s not here right now.” said the scruffy man with wily black hair and a red flannel shirt from behind the counter.”

I was standing in a used auto parts store looking at the old car posters, the broken 25 cent gumball machine, and the motor oil colored sofa from 1976. I could sit down… I thought to myself… but that would be as awkward as a hipster in Walmart. “When will he be back?” I asked loudly, but friendly.

“He’s on a call and won’t be back until after lunch.” he grumbled like I was trying to take his only shot at seeing the Seinfeld rerun that was playing on the 5 inch trucker tv.

“Ok, I’ll try to come by later.”

I could hear his relief through the silence. I turned and went out the door. I walked slowly over the dusty gravel and felt out of place in my button-up shirt and dress pants. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I tried to look like somebody. In the car my 3 year old son was crying and my wife gave me the secret signal for let’s get some lunch. As we drove out of that parking lot, my brain convinced me that my idea that had seemed so strong in the beginning wasn’t well timed or wasn’t any good. Either of which sealed the deal on effectively killing the whole thing.

A few months earlier I had decided to host a 20 mile trail race. Ever since I had failed at a 100 mile race, I had wanted to be involved with the people that call themselves trail-runners in some way. They are a special breed. In order to do that,  I wanted this mans permission to use his land. The location was beyond perfect. It was the only place to have this race. The first time I called and explained myself he said, “You wanna do what?” “Call me back in a week and I’ll think it over.” This went on for 3 more rounds. After a month of no results, I decided to visit. Well, you’ve already heard how that went.  I moved on to something else. It’s easy to see now that my problem was not him, it was me. It was my attitude toward obstacles. I guess I expected it to be easy. I would just have an idea and then everything would fall into place. That was not the case.

Obstacles to my goals show up in sneaky ways. They never have a flashing sign that says, ” Get past me and all your dreams will come true.” They just sneak in silently and let the air out of your tires when you’re not looking. I’m trying a new method these days and I’m really liking the results. It’s important to see the obstacles for what they are and call them out. Once you know it’s a problem, you can decide what to do with it. My problem was securing the location I really wanted to have my race. I just needed to re-frame the situation.

Don Corleone

What if I had been doing that race for the mafia. What if some stranger had made it clear to me that “The Don” wanted a race and I was the man that would get it done.  Would I have found a way to meet with the owner and convince him to support the race? I think so. I think I could have thought of 5 different ways to try and “persuade” him to work together. Why are we not willing to work like that for ourselves?

The Milgram Experiment

It reminds me of The Milgram Experiment where people are willing to do almost anything if someone is standing there telling them to. If you are not familiar with it, the short and skinny is this. People volunteered for an experiment. They were asked to shock another human for every wrong answer while a man in a lab coat stood over them and insisted that it go on. Remarkably the subjects would continue to increase the voltage and shock the other person even after they had been told about a heart condition. So they were able to demonstrate that most people are willing to do almost anything if someone with perceived authority stood over them and coerced them to.

Bear with me, here comes the good stuff. Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University of California demonstrated that written goals with accountability partners dramatically increased success rates for accomplishing those goals. In short her experiment was the first of its kind to demonstrate the effects of telling someone about your goals after you have written them out on a sheet of paper. If you write down your, goal you are 39.5% more likely to reach that goal. But, here’s the good stuff…are you ready? If you write down your goals and send progress reports to a friend, you are 76.7 % more likely to complete the goal. This is a no brainer my friends. If you are serious about getting the best job ever, losing weight, benching 300 pounds, organizing your life, watching each and every Star Wars episode, or finishing the book you’ve been writing, you need to get yourself a friend or coach that will nudge you along and help you be accountable.

So here’s the point, do you think it would be easier to accomplish one of your goals if you had someone coaching you? Like an accountability partner or specific goal coach? In other words, someone that actually cares if you succeed?

This topic really interests me. I’d like to see if I could directly help a couple people with specific goals. If you have a goal you want to reach but haven’t had much success, send me an email at bradley@bradleygann.com. Let me know what your specific goal is for the next couple of months and I’ll check in with you to make sure you are on track. Want to do a 5k? Change your eating habits? Take a chance. I look forward to working with a few of you personally and the best part, it’s free. The next year will pass one way or another, it’s your choice whether or not you grab it by the throat and make it yours.

If you’re too shy to put yourself out there but you are already working on a goal, check out this post I did about persistence. Especially when you think all is lost.


If you find yourself coming back to this site for a second or third time, please subscribe. I usually share on Facebook but with the new rules only 5% of my friends actually see the posts when I share them. This is hardly a good way to share what takes me several hours a week to put together. As an incentive for the time it takes you to type in your email, I’m having a drawing in early December for a $25 dollar Amazon gift card. If you’re on the list, you’ll be entered for a chance to win!

Leave some love…

Have you ever had an accountability partner for one of your goals? Did knowing someone was paying attention to your goal make you work harder to get there?  What’s one goal you are working on now that you would really be excited to finish? Share your thoughts in the comments below.







Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “Obstacle #257,876 – The 20 Mile Race that Never Happened

  1. Of course we have to have accountability ..the work place has periodic reviews, schools have report cards/progress reports, we have BBB, snoops, and other watch dogs. As always, great read – anxiously awaiting the book you mentioned.

    • I love your comments. Thanks for calling me out on book. It has an amazing start and could be finished up in a few months. The theme however falls slightly outside of the main direction I’ve decided to take with the site. I’m deciding whether or not to continue that book or focus on something more in line with what all the successful people are doing RIGHT NOW to accomplish what they want in life. I do plan on finishing it though. It’s an important subject to me. (Language Learning through an online friendship.) Have a great week!