It is natural to wonder whether proponents of project management, who do project-related work professionally, walk the talk on the projects they undertake professionally. I believe I do, and dozens of people have been kind enough to write detailed recommendations elaborating that trait on my LinkedIn profile. But it’s a whole other matter to apply project management to one’s own personal projects, i.e. the projects one encounters in one’s personal or family life, not the ones you get paid to undertake as a professional. For example, a personal project I have just begun is the Navy SEAL Bonefrog Challenge.
I have learned that when it comes to personal projects, sometimes it is better to apply one’s project management techniques without drawing any attention to it, as was the case halfway through preparations for our wedding when I told my wife we needed to use proven project management methods to ensure the wedding would be a success. Whew boy! Lesson learned. By contrast, other kinds of personal projects can sometimes benefit from a bit of advertisement and accountability before they are finished, like the Bonefrog Challenge.
Two years ago, I ran the Navy SEAL Bonefrog Challenge for the first time. Repeated annually, the Bonefrog is a renown obstacle course race designed and operated by Navy SEALs, arguably the most elite special operations warriors on the planet. The Bonefrog features 50+ daunting obstacles, e.g. barbed wire to belly crawl under, vertical walls to climb over, hills to run up carrying bags of rocks, 50 foot ropes to ascend and descend without breaking your neck, etc. Despite my experience in project management, I hadn’t prepared at all. To give you a sense of how green I was, frankly, I ate corn beef hash for breakfast. Then I showed up to the race but left my ID in the car and had to run back to get it so the SEALs would agree to put a GPS tracker on my ankle and let me run. By the time I sprinted back up to the race, I was looking at an empty field, as the race had already started 15 minutes ago. I asked the SEAL with the starter gun if I could go, and he barked “That’s the spirit. GO, GO, GO!” I lost my breakfast by the first obstacle. At one point I ascended a huge hill, which was so hard that I was convinced I would have a heart attack. I convinced myself that it must be the end of the race. Surely people would die beyond this point, I said to myself. But when I got to the top, a SEAL barked at me “Good job! You’re halfway there!” I did not quit, and I did not die, and after it was all said and done, to my surprise, I came in 6th place within the group running with me. The secret is: just don’t quit. Never quit.
Next year a day before my 47th birthday, I will run it again. But this time I will do it as a Tier-1 competitor, running a distance over twice what I ran before with as many more obstacles. Like most projects, preparation is the key, a lesson hammered into me again on the first Bonefrog. The race itself is the equivalent of project deployment, i.e. the end of the thing. The real work happens beforehand, which is where I find myself now. I am just getting over the flu, so it’s all uphill from here. Lame pun intended (and excused due to illness).
Nine out of ten PMI members don’t realize that PMI’s project management framework for Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing a project (or IPECC) does not denote sequential phases. During project initiating, project planning begins, and before planning is finished, project executing begins. While these things are happening project monitoring and controlling must occur. I’ll apply IPECC correctly this time around on the Bonefrog, keeping in mind a saying the SEALs have made famous: “The only easy day was yesterday.” In a matter of months we’ll see how project closing goes.
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