Nicholas, Michael and Muhammad on Darkness

Nicholas Bate writes a lot (is that an understatement?) on his blog about the Business of Life and the Life of Business. Most of his blog posts are short, pithy, and to the essential point … but the velocity and variety of posts makes it interesting (helpful, useful, insightful, etc.). It also means that you quickly lose track of what he has written, and having something at hand to remind you of his thinking is useful. For that reason, I’ve found his little published booklets of blog posts to be tremendously valuable – I stash them away around the house where I can trip over them and read and review what he’s written.

One of those is called Pensieri, which includes this post from May 2015:

Fire up the mission. Get clear on what you need to do. Hum your own motivational soundtrack, write your own empowering speech. Get started. Accept the dips and plateaus, the slings and arrows and the sheer toughness of carving out your own destiny.


And love it. Every damn minute: even the darkest hour of that darkest night.

I happened to re-read this page a few days after seeing the recent Under Armour video featuring Michael Phelps getting ready for the Olympics. The video finishes with a refrain similar to the one in Nicholas’s blog post: It’s what you do in the dark, that puts you in the light. I was telling one of my sons today that for however many years Michael has been swimming, it all comes down to just a few hundredths of a second in the finals. Years of intense training … and the difference between you and the next guy is measured in hundredths of a second. Wow.

Both are similar to what Muhammad Ali said:

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.

Athletes working out and getting ready, far from the eyes of anyone. Contributions hidden while under development. Working on things outside of the glare of day-to-day reporting structures and being in the spotlight. It’s not an easy place for anyone … but an essential place if you want different results.

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