Running a Marathon and Design

A man with a hat and no shirt jogging along the a state road surrounded by desert and some hills in the distance.

Micro Progressions and the 10% Rule

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably curious to know what running a marathon and design have to do with each other. In reality, they don’t have anything in common. However, I would argue that the way you should approach training and learning each subject is the same. It’s never about the ending destination, it’s about the journey along the way. The Japanese have a word for this. It’s called Kaizen. Constant improvement, everyday, to become better than you were yesterday.

Mindset is a powerful tool and it can either help you or hinder you.

Most people think of running 26.2 miles (marathon distance) and think to themselves, “I could never do that, I can’t even run one mile.” If that is their mindset, then they’ve already decided that it’s an impossible achievement. Mindset is a powerful tool and it can either help you or hinder you.

Running one mile without training is hard. Adding 25 more to that is even harder. However, marathon runners don’t just wake up one day with the capability to run that extreme distance. It requires consistent training and slow increments of intensity and mileage every week for a number of months. This progression usually follows a steady incline of 10%. Building up from short distance training runs and capping out around 20 miles at the peak of the training schedule. This is what’s known as the 10% rule. This slow graduation is how it is possible for someone who has never ran a mile in their life, to gain the ability to run 26 miles for four hours straight.

Applying This Concept to Everyday Life

What if you don’t have plans to ever run a marathon, and in fact, you hate running? No problem, you can still apply this same principle to your life. Most of us have some sort of skill, hobby, or craft that we’re actively engaged and trying to improve on. This is where the concept of Kaizen comes into play. In the Western world, we call it “micro progressions”.

I personally learned this concept from listening to a Polish bodybuilding trainer speak on his methods of training individuals with extreme physical handicaps.He told the story of a couple who reached out to him that were the parents of a grown man who was born with a disease that left his bones brittle and his muscles weak.The son was physically incapable of feeding and bathing himself. Realizing their own mortality, the parents asked the trainer to see if he could help their son become independent. The trainer began working with the feeble son and the first month of training was spent solely on functional movement alone. Once the son was able to move freely and walk on his own, the trainer then progressed him to olympic-style lifts with a broomstick. Next came a heavier object, then another, and the progression continued until he could finally lift a barbell. Over the course of a few years, the son went from complete dependence on his parents to complete independence. He was able to fully function on his own, achieving his parents’ wishes. The son worked everyday at a movement, becoming more mobile and stronger in each session. These efforts compounded over time to become something great. Micro progressions changed this young man’s life.

How the Best Become the Best

When a person is world-class at the thing they do, how do you believe they got there? Some may say that the person was born with unnatural talent in their chosen subject. Others will say that the person is just lucky. In reality, people who reach the level of mastery in their craft have simply put in the work. They were willing to work harder than others around them in order to excel. These people employ extreme focus, dedication, and the theory of micro progressions every day, relentlessly. These small efforts compound over time and neural pathways develop that allow these individuals to become more effective and efficient in their chosen craft. To sum it up, if you want to be great, you have to put in the time and effort. So the next time you see an endurance athlete finish a long race, know that they have put in hundreds of miles and countless hours of effort to reach the finish line.

Moving the Needle Forward

Mastering your craft is a long journey that begins with one small step. This holds true whether you’re training to run great distances or your aim is to become the best designer you can be. The process is exactly the same. Ten thousand hours is an insurmountable amount of time but if you sit down every day and put in a few hours, the summit of the mountain gets closer than you would imagine.

I apply these methods to become 1% better than I was the day before.

I’ve personally used these concepts and methods to begin the journey of living the life I’ve always wanted. I completed my first marathon in October of 2020 and I’m currently training for more races in 2021. I now use micro progressions in almost every aspect of my life. From reading books, fitness, mental health, and design. I apply these methods to become 1% better than I was the day before. Further progressing the needle to mastery.

Crush Your Goals

As you can see this is a powerful method for not only progressing your craft but also simply getting things done. If you’ve made goals for yourself this year think about how you can break them down into quarterly, monthly, and daily segments. You’ll soon see the results of micro progressions as the days pass. I wish you the best of luck on whatever journey you’re currently on and if you’d ever like to chat about how I implement these strategies into my daily discipline, I’d be more than happy to!


I'd love to swap stories and learn other ideas.

Does Creativity Have an On/Off Switch?

A boy dressed as a construction worker and busting through an old wall.
Every creative person has been there at some point, staring at a blank screen or canvas contemplating what it is that they’re attempting to create. In a deadline-driven world, it can feel like a make it or break it situation. It’s nerve-racking and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post, I’ll touch on why we experience “creative block” and methods that I’ve learned over the years to overcome it as a professional creative.

What is Creative Block?

Creative block can also happen at any point in a project, not just the beginning.

According to Wikipedia, creative block or more commonly known as “writer’s block” is a condition in which the artist/author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slow down. This, however, is not the result of a lack of commitment or skill. Creative block can also happen at any point in a project, not just the beginning. Experiencing a block and not having the ability to overcome it can even exacerbate the problem, triggering a “fight or flight” response. The stress of not being able to create causes frustration and anxiety which ultimately blocks you even further.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

I’ve noticed that the amount of sleep I get the night before affects my ability to create immensely.

Sometimes you can’t always blame it on “having a bad creative day.” Life can throw curveballs at you that are subconsciously draining to your creativity. Dealing with events outside of your work-life can be incredibly distracting. Going through a divorce, dealing with the death of a loved one, or stress and depression will put a huge damper on the creative juices. It doesn’t have to be these extreme examples either. I’ve noticed that the amount of sleep I get the night before affects my ability to create immensely. Getting enough sleep and staying hydrated is not only great for your overall health, it typically means you’ll have the ability to be more creative.

Sparking Creativity When it's Not Present

I’ve been a professional graphic designer for over a decade and I can tell you that creative block never goes away. You just become more skilled at combating it when it arrives. Here are some methods that I and others have found to help bring you out of a creative slump:

Use inspiration

Inspiration can come from a multitude of sources. If you’re a visual artist, an example of inspiration could be a folder filled with screenshots of other work that catches your eye. When you don’t know where to start, looking at other artists’ creations can take you from zero to inspired within the blink of an eye. A few online inspiration resources you can try are Abduzeedo, Logopond, and MyModernMet.

Writing down ideas

There’s something special about the relationship between pen and paper. If you work primarily with a computer and create digital art like me, it’s possible to spend an entire day without using analog tools. The mere act of writing or sketching can kick the right brain into gear. The trick is to not hold yourself back. Write down anything that comes to mind about your subject matter. It can be buzzwords and phrases, thumbnail sketches, or even a description of the ideal final outcome of your project. The more you write or sketch, the easier it becomes and the greater the chance of stumbling upon something awesome.

Place yourself in a different environment

An easy hack to help turn on the idea faucet is to remove yourself from your typical working environment and place yourself in a new one. If you work from home, going to a coffee shop to grab a cup of joe and work can be a great way to shake things up. If you’re limited to the office but you have different work zones throughout, try getting away from your desk for a bit. If you’re unable to move from your desk, take a walk around the building. A simple 5-minute walk through a different environment or even outside can be all that it takes to help you bust through the creative cinder blocks. See what I did there?

Limit disruptions when trying to focus

This may go without saying, but distractions are the death of creativity. Turning off notifications, switching your phone to silent, and staying off social media will not only help you get started on your project but it will also keep you in the zone. Staying focused on the task at hand is key to tapping into your creative potential.


Music is a big one for most creatives. It stimulates the right brain (the creative side of the brain) and helps you stay on task. I use different types of music as a tool for various types of creative projects. When I’m creating a layout design that requires strict attention to detail and focus I listen to upbeat, energetic music without lyrics. It’s important to note that lyrics can be distracting. “Working music” is meant to be in the background and more subconscious than listening for enjoyment. If I’m working on something more artistic where I can allow my creativity to run rampant I usually pick music that’s slower and more melodic. If I’m working with numbers or doing any kind of calculation I don’t listen to music at all. Silence is the key for me in these areas. I need absolute focus on my thoughts. I did go to art school after all…

Still Can't Find Your Flow?

Sometimes, the switch just can’t be flipped and postponing work on the project until the next day is more beneficial than trying to grind through

In my experience, there are some days where no matter what I do, I can’t get past the block. When these times occur I just have to walk away from the project. Luckily, I’m more than likely working on multiple projects at one time and I can juggle back and forth, working on a task that doesn’t require as much creative brain power. Sometimes, the switch just can’t be flipped and postponing work on the project until the next day is more beneficial than trying to grind through. I’ve spent hours spinning my wheels on a project just to set it aside and knock it out in a quarter of the time the next day.


The next time you find yourself staring at a blank page I hope these tips that I’ve learned over the years help you break through your own barriers. If you’re still stuck, you are more than welcome to reach out to us for a quick brainstorm. We love meeting new creatives and will never turn down an opportunity to help where we can. What is your experience with creative block and do you believe that creativity can be switched on and off without hesitation?


We'd love to bounce ideas around.