Mo Farah’s Unreasonable Success Guide

Capture2I was on the school run when I heard Mo Farah on Radio 4 promoting his new book.

Mo is a Somali-born British track and field athlete who is a bit good at the 5K and 10K. Golden medals are his.

He said something very interesting at the end of his interview.

Before I tell you what he said I want to tell you something else.

Many, many years ago…

…I remember seeing an interview with Seb Coe on the telly. Seb was another track and field great who won gold gongs at the Olympics in 1980 and 1984 and that was before UK plc enacted their gold gong getting masterplan so he probably had something about him.

Seb said this “I get annoyed when my wife asks me to do things around the house when I am trying to relax before training. I need to save my energy for training.” Now I may have got this wrong in detail but not in sentiment.

I was a bit taken aback by this. He seemed very self-absorbed and arrogant. All a bit me, me, me.

Let’s get back to Mo.

Mo is training in the US and Africa. He was asked if he would consider doing this in the UK. His response was an unequivocal…”NO.”


He can’t.

Too much attention.  The media. The celebrity.

Mo said “I need the simple life.  I need to eat and sleep and train. That’s it.”

That’s it. Eat and sleep and train.

There are implications to this viewpoint. There’s little chance of fish fingers being grilled at 4pm. Maybe if one’s partner requires hand holding on the sofa at 7pm to watch the latest soap one’s partner will be disappointed.

I am reminded of Shaw…

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Don’t be put off by the use of the word man. This applies to ladies too.

Progress is made by unreasonable people.

But as always, this is not a stark, binary choice. To be unreasonable or not.

It’s more of a sliding scale. A continuum if you will.

The more unreasonable you are, the greater your chance of unusual results. The more reasonable, nice and accommodating you are, the less your chance of unusual results.  

I make no value judgements here about what anyone wants to achieve.

Eat and sleep and train.

Mo eliminates complexity…

…and shiny distractions. He focuses on what matters.

Eat and sleep and train.

To want to win a gold medal is not a reasonable desire. It is very, very unreasonable and therefore requires some very unreasonable behaviour.

But like I said this thing is a sliding scale. The more unreasonable you are, the greater your chance of unusual results. You don’t need to be as single minded as Mo or Seb, but you need to understand that acting normal gets normal results.

So don’t feel bad about being unreasonable. Feel glad. Thanks Mo.


3 Responses to Mo Farah’s Unreasonable Success Guide

  1. Amanda Fairclough October 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    I have been coming to the growing realisation that I am too reasonable with clients, with friends and family and with “voluntary” activities. I definitely need to be more unreasonable if I’m to get a “better” result. And it seems to start with learning how to say, “No”!

    • Mark Nugent October 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

      As I approach the end of my 6th year of self-employed splendour I have gone from always saying “yes” which I think you probably have to in start-up mode, to now often saying “no”. If I’m saying “no” for the right reasons, i.e. this proposed activity will not take me forward, it’s very, very self-empowering. I shall change my name to DR NO. Thanks for commenting Amanda.

  2. Neil October 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Fantastic Blog, love that shit.

    Short sharp and shinny.

    Keep up the good work Mark.

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