Our time with Usain Bolt although managed by his agents and minders was relaxed and what the gentle giant would refer to as “chill”.
Between press conferences, Kerry, Matt and I had about 10 minutes alone with the fastest man over 100m ever to grace our planet. Bolt’s easy laid-back manner created the calm and quite similar to what I would imagine it to be like in the eye of the storm. This is his world, his life and despite the frantic going on’s around him he remains centred, present and engaged. This was a first glimpse into the state of mind that enables Bolt to create the vortex in which he is able to seemingly peacefully exist.
After taking time to encourage Matt, whose journey he had already familiarised himself with, the conversation meandered into the champion’s mindset. Perhaps relieved that this wasn’t another interview but rather an intimate conversation, Bolt dropped the “media” answers and spoke to us with a sense of warmth, empathy and mentorship.
In those 10 minutes, this giant human lightning bolt, became a normal person, just a man who has committed to his dream to be the fastest on earth with laser focus and a dogged determination; to work relentlessly to drive himself towards the manifestation of his dreams evidenced by his haul of Olympic gold medals.
“I think a lot of people, they see you run and they say, “aaah it looks so easy, looks effortless”. But before it gets to that point, it’s hard; it’s hard work. It’s day-in, day-out sacrifice. Just DYING this time when you run and you just want to stop, you want to give up, you just want to go home” Usain Bolt
Bolt reminded us that those sub-10 second times (9.58s is his World Record time) are the culmination of thousands of hours of training, mental preparation and social sacrifice. When there is no one cheering him on, and no one watching other than his coach, when he is bent over like a paper clip vomiting in pre-season training and he digs deep to haul himself back to his feet and to complete another series of sprint drills, that’s where the gold is won, the feature event itself, broadcast to billions, is merely the final drill.
He leant on a quote that I have heard him recite on a number of occasions: “Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. You can daydream for free, but goals don’t come without a price. They take Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat,” he pauses and looks straight at me as if he’s rehearsed this – “How will you pay for your goals?” It felt in an instant that the chilled laid-back man had transformed into a Spartan warrior staring right through me – there it is: the champion mindset!
“I know what I can do so it doesn’t bother me what other people think or their opinion on the situation.” Usain Bolt
This conversation caused me to reflect on how all too often we back off, when the acknowledgement isn’t there, when the reward we expected doesn’t materialise, or frankly when it just gets too difficult. It was a reminder of how we fall into the needy spiral of seeking external validation from colleagues, family members, pay cheques and even the social acknowledgement of strangers through “Likes”. But this is not the mindset of a champion – a champion is driven from the inside out, they are driven by purpose and that purpose is to fulfil a vision, and that vision is one of greatness. Not necessarily the greatness of world records and fame – but rather the greatness that comes with the commitment of incremental progress and development to be better today than we were yesterday.
This potential for greatness, to be a champion lies within each one of us – it does not lie outside of us. That still small voice that you hear – that’s the voice of greatness – listen to it.