A leaf from Usain’s Book
“Losing Usain Bolt to athletics is like losing the air. He is an elemental presence, the one figure capable of elevating a humble foot race to a mid-summer blockbuster.”- Oliver Brown
Can this be said of your business or your career?
It has taken me long to get back as I have been nursing my heart over Usain’s low ending, thankfully ManU’s streak has aided in my healing,(I don’t really care what you are quipping back, I can’t hear you. And I hope we will be nailed to first place like we were nailed to sixth place last season)
I agree with Oliver Brown, the fastest man on earth will be greatly missed by many not just for his speed, his carefree Caribbean swagger and confidence but also for the inspiration he constantly meted out. I pay tribute to the legend by sharing with you my insights;
Your background, challenges and negative experiences do not disqualify you.
In fact, they help you develop grit if you frame them. I keep coming across legends who had no silver spoons in their mouths, not even brass ones and it makes me think that adversity is the perfect flame for greatness. Usain grew up without running water and it needed 48 trips to the river and back to fill up the drums in his home, he halved those trips by carrying 2 buckets at a time and thus built physical strength.
Despite having scoliosis (irregular back curvature, his right leg was 1cm shorter than his left) resulting in many trips to his German doctor, tight hamstrings and extensive physiotherapy, he chose to push and become a living legend.
His speed and height were a mismatched because taller athletes are suited for long distances. Not even the finest biologists can fully explain why Usain at six-foot-five, whose 9.58 for 100m is more than two tenths quicker than the next man who has never committed a doping violation – Maurice Greene, with 9.79 – came to be so fast. Taking 41 strides to cover 100m when most of his rivals needed 44, Bolt saved athletics despite that mismatch at a time when few realised it needed saving, it became more than a sport.
Play to your strengths.
If my mother had her way I would have still been rewriting my O’level maths. Had I not passed Statistics in University she would have still been reminding me of the opportunities I was losing in life because of my O’level Math grade. For his height, six-foot-five, Usain would have excelled at longer distances like 400m and at some point, his coach steered him in that direction but he quickly recoiled and focused on 100m. Bolt was confident enough in his own strengths and abilities that he knew when to accept or ignore feedback. In business, you often find a heavy emphasis on gap-analysis, encouraging executives to focus on improving their weak points. The recipe for success is to do fewer of the things we don’t like and to concentrate on those that we are good at.
Turn setbacks into strengths
‘Coach told me to learn to lose, because by doing so you figure out what you needed to win’, he says. The onset of his Olympic career was marred by failure and was booed at, at some point. If you believe in yourself then losing is part of the training. He kept working at it until he hit Gold. He didn’t blame his background, height or scoliosis, he kept his eyes glued on winning.
Push through pain and complexities.
Usain’s coach taught him to go past the ‘the moment of no return’ a point of pain when you’d rather quit. Going past the moment of no return in life’s challenges is what makes us stronger and legendary. The coach’s assertion is simple, when you feel pain in the race, a level of pain you haven’t reached and surpassed in training, you will falter, but if you have eclipsed it in training you will have a chance of glory. It reminds me of the scripture that says, ‘If you run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?
It doesn’t matter what space you find yourself in, you can still pick it up today and focus on what is working and push through.
Nobody, not even him, knows quite what comes next. A few nightclub visits, perhaps. All that is certain is that he is shutting down the kind of sporting electricity that might never be reproduced in our lifetimes. Enriching, affirming, one-of-a-kind, Bolt can slip off into his sun-kissed retirement content. For him and for all who watched him, it has been quite the ride.
Usain Bolt masterfully learnt what it means to play to win. You can too!
P.S As you rise to legendary put your personal touch to it!!!
Did I mention another thing about his uniqueness and powerful branding, his farewell was marked with a poignant gesture, as Usain took to the track in odd-coloured shoes: one purple, one gold. Purple denoted the colour of his high school, in Falmouth, Jamaica. Gold defined his pre-eminence ever since: eight Olympic gold medals, world records galore, all securing him the helpless adulation of millions. “Forever fastest,” read the message on his footwear.