Successful people have a few major things in common. One, they withstand temptation. Two, they delay gratification. And three, they overcome their fears to do what they need to do -- consistently doing, over and over again, the things makes the biggest difference in their lives.

In short, they grind, working hard every day to achieve their long-term goals.

So to prove that -- and prove something to myself -- last year I decided to do 100,000 pushups and 50,000 sit-ups in addition to my normal workouts.

I don't particularly enjoy pushups and definitely don't like sit-ups, and that was partly the point: perseverance is easier the more you enjoy what you do.

So how did it go? 100,001 pushups later -- because hey, you can always do one more -- and 50,000 sit-ups later -- because that doesn't mean you have to do one more -- the answer is that it went surprisingly easily.

Of course I didn't do them all in one day. I didn't have to do 100,000 pushups all at once; I just had to do 274 a day. I didn't have to do 50,000 sit-ups all at once; I just had to do 137 a day. Those were still big numbers, but they weren't that big. All I had to do is go day by day, one day at a time, and grind it out.

As long as I did -- as long as I stuck with my routine -- success was guaranteed.

That doesn't mean every day went like clockwork. Most did, but several times along the way I fell behind due to illness or personal issues. I didn't fall too far behind because most days I did an extra 30 or 40 pushups and 20 or 30 sit-ups, which built up a buffer against the occasional days that I missed.

So at one point, I caught up in a big way, doing 5,000 pushups in one day. (Here's how that fun experience went.) I didn't do 2,500 sit-ups one day, though; I added 50 to my normal daily total until I caught up. (The nice thing about doing 190 sit-ups a day for a few weeks is that when I went back down to 140, it was fun to be done with that day's sit-ups relatively quickly.)

And I definitely improved over time. At first it took me about 30 minutes to do 300 push-ups and 160 sit-ups. (I always rounded up to even numbers.) Within a month I had knocked four or five minutes off the total time; by the end of the year the whole thing took less than 15 minutes, and that was without pushing myself. I could do all the sit-ups without stopping to take a break. I could do the first set of 80 pushups with no problem, and continue with sets 50. Other times I mixed it up, doing 30 at a time with 20-second rest breaks in between, or 50s with 40-second rest breaks. After all, variety really is the spice of an otherwise boring routine.

Improving -- at anything -- is always fun.

What was also fun is proving the power of routine where accomplishing big goals is concerned.

Think about it: The distance between a dream and the stark reality of your present situation always creates a huge mental hurdle. Setting a huge goal is supposed to be motivating, but comparing your current state to your eventual goal is in fact incredibly de-motivating and demoralizing -- and is usually the reason we give up on our goals. (It's tough to think about running a marathon right now when you can barely run a mile.)

But when you create a routine, stick to that routine, and grind it out, day after day after day, you can get there. And every day you get to feel good about yourself, because you accomplished what you set out to accomplish that day.

That daily success -- and the intrinsic reward that comes with it -- is incredibly motivating. Daily successes create a virtuous cycle that makes it easier to do what you need to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, until one day you lift up your head and realize you've accomplished what that once seemed impossible -- maybe especially to you.

Try it. Pick a business or personal goal you want to accomplish. Break it down into daily activities. If you want to grow your business, call five prospects every day. If you want to build your network, connect with three people every day. If you want build better relationships, check in with one friend or family member every day.

What you decide to do is up to you; just make sure you create a routine that gets you to what currently seems like an insurmountable finish line.

Then all you have to do is stick to that routine. If you do, success is assured.

Even if success means doing something as silly as 100,000 pushups and 50,000 sit-ups.

More in my "Here's What Happened When" series:

Published on: Jan 3, 2017
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