Usain celebrates his 100m win in fine style.
What will he do next? I woke up this morning to find out that the fastest man of all time and recently crowned 2012 Olympic 100m champion had just declared his modest intentions to don the famous red jersey of none other than Manchester United Football Club, my boyhood team.
Said the Jamaican Lightning Bolt. ”People think I am joking, but if Sir Alex Ferguson called me up and said ‘Okay, let’s do this. Come and have a trial’, it would be impossible for me to say no.” Really? Usain, sprinting down the right flank and delivering a pin point cross for Rooney to coolly finish? Methinks that Bolt should be the face of Adidas instead of Puma, so deeply has he ingrained their tagline of “Impossible is Nothing”.
But just what is behind the success of the fastest man of all time? What lessons does he hold for those of us starting and running our own business? And why is he always smiling so much? After some deep thought interspersed with lots of fun web-browsing of lego re-enactments of his Olympic win, I’ve distilled the 6 key lessons we can learn from the life and times of the Insane Usain.
1. You Don’t have to Start First to Finish First
Bolt is not known to be a fast starter in the 100m. His reaction time out of the starting blocks at the Olympics 100m final was 0.165s, behind Tyson Gay of the US (0.145s) and compatriot Asafa Powell (0.155). His 1.96 m frame and higher centre of gravity meant that his first 30m or so was behind that of other sprinters such as Justin Gatlin, who have a lower centre of gravity and terrific acceleration.
However, Bolt is almost always a strong finisher. Having paced himself earlier, his lanky legs approached top speed towards the 60-70m mark, and his long stride took him past his opponents to seal a historic victory in 9.63s, 0.05 s off his world record!
The lesson is the same for businesses looking to outrun the competition. You don’t have to be the first to come up with an idea or start a business in a particular niche, a consistently strong performance is far more important in taking the lead and outgunning the field.
2. Talent + Hard Work + Discipline = Very Very Fast
Sure he makes it look easy, but such world-beating times are anything but. Usain was born a natural athlete , blessed with a long frame, an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers and a huge stride of 2.4m. Yet he also trains 6 days a week, spending an hour a day in the gym and countless more on the track, practising his art to perfection. Bolt credits his coach Glen Mills for instilling the discipline and technique needed to perform at the highest level.
Successful entrepreneurs would agree that natural talent is not enough to succeed, and there’s no substitute for hard work, improving on current methods and systems as well as constant discipline to get to the top.
3. Build a Support Eco-System
Even in the midst of finishing one-two in the most closely watched race on earth, Bolt and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake remained close friends, and they can be seen joking around on tv before the big race.
This camaraderie extends to the entire Jamaican Racers Track Club where they train, home to some of the fastest runners in the world. The constant atmosphere of friendly competition, top-class training and a history of excellence helped propel Bolt to the top.
Likewise, having a supportive eco-system in terms of funding, talent and infrastructure is crucial for businesses, especially young start-ups, to thrive. And there’s no harm in being friendly with some of your competitors, who can push you to be on top of your game and maybe even offer some advice along the way.
4. Stay Calm and Smile a lot in the Face of Adversity
This young man knows how to have fun (more on this later). His curious mix of joie de vivre, humility and overconfidence is a dream for marketers, and his wide, bright smile doesn’t hurt either. He easily looked the most relaxed member of the field in the run up to the big race, yet he was all business as he sailed through the home stretch.
Even as he battled back injuries earlier this season, he stayed in a positive frame of mind and remained confident of retaining his Olympic title. He tells us that “Jamaican people like to have fun. We joke around and don’t take ourselves too seriously”.
We all can take a leaf from Usain’s book and take a lighter view of the daily obstacles coming our way in running a business. Sometimes, approaching the problem with a relaxed frame of mind can offer better, and faster, solutions.
5. Think Blue Ocean – even if you’re on Top of your Game.
The lightning legend didn’t always want to be 100m sprinter. His childhood sport was cricket, until his cricket coach asked him to try running, he was so fast. Bolt has shown evidence of flexible thinking time and time again. He was originally an excellent 200m and 400m runner, but begged coach Glen Mills to let him run the 100m. His coach promised that he could do that if he broke the Jamaican National 200m record. He did, and the rest as they say is history.
Bolt is thinking Blue Ocean again, this time wanting to play for the Reds of Manchester! Blue Ocean Strategy is all about creating uncontested market space for yourself through creative thinking. If Bolt manages to swing a trial with Manchester United, it’d be safe to say that he would be the only world record sprinter ever to don the jersey of the Red Devils. Move over, Cristiano!
6. If you Win, you too will Get to Party with the Swedish Women’s Handball Team.
And finally, we hear that after his win, three charmed players from the Swedish Women’s Handball team requested special accreditation from Usain’s manager to hang out with Usain in his room, after which Usain Tweeted “Hmmm Mmmm.” Fastest man in the world? You bet.
Image credit: Menmedia.co.uk