A hockey stick is good for many things, the most important of which is to play hockey. It’s not really good for financial forecasting.

Still, I see many leaders create financial forecasts that look just like a hockey stick. You’ve probably seen it too. It looks like this

s-curve growth hockey stick


Hockey stick growth is awesome in theory. The problem is that it’s mostly just in theory. Very rarely do you actually see a hockey stick growth curve – and if you do, you’re probably just not panning out far enough.

Believe it or not, your productivity, mental health, and career growth are reliant on understanding this. But in order for us to talk about that, we must first have a little chat about triathlon training.

When I Was A Long-Distance Athlete

I was a long-distance athlete for many years. I got my jollies out of marathon running, Ironman triathlon racing, and other assorted chicanery.

To race these types of long-distance events you need to prepare. To prepare, you need a training program.

Endurance training programs all follow the same general structure. There are four basic phases:

  • Phase 1: Base
  • Phase 2: Build
  • Phase 3: Peak
  • Phase 4: Recover

(Editors Note: I know you don’t care about triathlon training, but this is going to be meaningful to you in a second. So stay focused. You can do it. I believe in you.)

Phase 1: Base

The Base stage of training happens mostly in your comfort zone. It doesn’t feel like growth. Your focus is on building up fitness and getting the body used to the exercise.

Think of it like strengthening your infrastructure.

Phase 2: Build

After a bit of time, you’ve strengthened your infrastructure, and your body is used to the workload. It is here that you start increasing the workload and building more stamina. You go a little further, stretching yourself a little outside of what feels natural.

Phase 3: Peak

Once you increase your stamina, you then begin to push the limits. Peak performance is when you start firing on all cylinders. Everything comes together and you’re killing it out there.

Phase 4: Recover

You’ve completed the three phases of the cycle, you’ve had a great race, and now is the time to let the body rest and recover before you start the whole process all over again.

If I were to draw this process on a notepad, it’d probably look exactly like this: