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Great by Choice“Great by Choice” is a book but this isn’t a book review – it’s a life preserver.

Just when you think life is smoothing out before you like a glimmering highway through a sun-scorched desert, something happens to jackhammer the road.

“Great by Choice” is a study of what uncertainty, chaos and bad luck will do to people and why some survive and even thrive.

The results were full of provocative surprises:

Success isn’t a result of being:
more creative,
more visionary,
more charismatic,
more ambitious,
more blessed by luck,
more risk seeking,
more heroic,
or more bold.

The most surprising take-away was the three behaviors shared by people who lived, both literally and figuratively, through the same circumstances that took the lives of others.

3 Core Behaviors For Great Outcomes


You control only a tiny sliver of what happens to you – even so you are free to choose how you respond and prepare.

Discipline is having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.

Roald Amundsen used a “20 mile march” discipline on his historic race to the South Pole. His team marched 20 miles everyday, regardless of how good or bad the weather was.

On good days he refused to go further than 20 miles.

On bad days he insisted on completing all 20 miles.

His competitor, Robert Scott, rested his team on bad weather days and pushed hard on good days.

Amundsen’s team won the race.

Scott and his team died.AmundsenSouthPoleParty1911

Fanatic discipline:

i) prevents overreaction to events, succumbing to the herd or leaping for alluring opportunities.

ii) builds confidence in your ability to perform well in adverse circumstances.

iii) helps you exert self-control in an out of control environment.

Freely chosen, discipline is absolute freedom.

What is your “20 mile march?” What do you need to be doing today, and everyday to keep you on track through the crisis?


Empiricism doesn’t mean favoring analysis over action.

Empiricism is the foundation for decisive action.

Success comes from direct observation, practical experimentation, and direct engagement with tangible evidence.

Collins and Hansen call this principle, “fire bullets, then cannonballs.” Scale innovation (firing bullets) and then then make the big investment (fire cannonballs) once you know what’s on target.

Being empirical doesn’t mean being indecisive or lacking faith.

Sound, empirical evidence is a wise expression of faith which allows for bold, creative initiatives.


Assumption: conditions will turn against you without warning at some unpredictable point in time at some highly inconvenient moment.

As pessimistic as that may sound it’s assuredly accurate.

Successful people prepare for inconvenient moments.

“Productive paranoia” is the idea that you need to build reserves and buffers, bound your risk, and show flexibility.

Successful families stay attuned to threats and changes, especially when all is going good.

Successful people channel their worry and fear into action, developing contingency plans and maintaining large margins of safety.

Action prevents a disruptive event or bad luck from stopping their creative work.

Greatness is a choice.

Its your responsibility to insure greatness will characterize your legacy, family, and organization.

APPLICATION: From strongest to weakest, rank the three behaviors in your life. What can you do to turn your weakest into your strongest? Please leave a comment below.

I write to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers


  • Jocelyn Jones says:

    I think my 100 day challenge is a kin to the 20 Mile March, perhaps I too could write a book and share my insights, lol

  • Cynthia says:

    Assumption: conditions will turn against you without warning
    at some unpredictable point in time at some highly inconvenient moment.

    As pessimistic as that may sound it’s assuredly accurate. I just love this.
    HE did say there will be trouble on earth. Let us commit what is lurking around the corner to HIM, who has overcome the world.

  • adena lowry says:

    My girlfriend’s father died last week after battling acholism for a long time. This is the email to her.
    You said that going through the photos of your dad over the years, helped push back the bad memories and bring forward the good ones.
    When you said that, it reminded me of God. Isn’t it odd how going through adversity brings so much clarity. All the garbage of the day, all the insignificant things, all the energy put into the unimportant, all of that falls to the sidelines in adversity.
    God pushes back the bad memories in our life too and brings forward the good ones. Actually, he covers our bad memories with His blood. They’re washed away and as far as the east is from the west.
    With all our sins, He takes us in, cleans us up, accepts us, and loves us. Funny, how we all want that from God, but we feel like Christians can judge us and not accept us. We desire to be understood, and loved, but sometimes even have trouble loving and understanding ourselves. We replay mistakes that we’ve made, fret about difficult words spoken, worry about choices we’ve made. All the time wondering how God, or anyone, can love us, but He does.
    He does.
    In all His simplicity, we miss it. We miss the bending of our knees, the humbling of our heart, and the small, faint cry out to God, “I need you”.
    But God waits, patiently He waits. And He’s waiting for me, and He’s waiting for you.
    So, come. Come all who are thirsty. Come. Come as you are.

  • The toughest thing about the 20 mile march is NOT doing 40 when you feel full of your self. Productive paranoia helps offset hubris. I try to avoid the words “it could be worse.” It often is.

  • bob jones says:

    Very well said Adena! These are enduring and endearing words. Your girlfriend has a good friend in you.

  • bob jones says:

    Great insight, Tim. I tend to the 40 when I have a strong wind behind my back. Tougher to do even 20 with the wind in your face. Follow Tim at

  • bob jones says:

    Thanks Cynthia! Things that sound and look pessimistic can actually be realistic. Things that sound optimistic can be empty and removed from reality. Truth sets you free, but sometimes it pains you before it frees you. Live free! God bless.

  • bob jones says:

    Glad to do the running and write the book with you!

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