Why Michael Phelps' Underwater Turn was so Brilliant

In business and in life, it’s often the things that people do that we don’t see that make a huge difference in a particular success or outcome. Success usually doesn’t come without them and such was the case during the men’s 4 X 100m swimming relay on Sunday in Rio.


Just a few meters under the surface on the 2nd leg, Michael Phelps executed an underwater turn that his coach, former head of the University of Michigan men’s swimming program, Bob Bowman, categorized as “the greatest of his career”. Then he added “[That’s] probably the best turn that’s ever been done underwater. That was a serious turn.”


It’s certainly the turn that gave the U.S. the lead and helped propel the men’s U.S. Olympic relay team to gold.


Now, every unseen or little thing we do can’t be an underwater turn of a lifetime, but those things that people might not see or that aren’t obvious to most, can make a big difference in both individual and team success.


Many people may be modest about some of the unsaid or unseen things that they do, but consider asking about them. Maybe ask a contractor or business you are working with, what are some of the behind-the scenes-things they do or things that I might not see that you do and why do you do them?


Many times, when the activities go unseen, it's because they can be pretty boring. Take investment management for example. We spend quite a bit of time thinking about portfolio diversification and risk. We work behind the scenes to build asset allocation models.  We study correlation tables and some of us operate our business to the fiduciary standard. And if we can help you save early and often, the results can really add up. Not exactly You Tube material...but those are the activities that really make a difference.


Many teams know that success isn’t the accumulation of all the outward things that we do. It’s those things that you may even wonder how they got done, that taken together, made all the difference in the world.


So, a hearty congratulations to Michael Phelps and Team USA. Thank you for all the lessons on teamwork, perseverance and showing up when it matters most, but most especially for the insight on unseen actions and deeds -- actions that can matter so tremendously in our culture of needing to be seen.



- Investing and investment management involves risk, including the loss of your initial investment or any investment gains.

- Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

- This generic information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation for any individual to take a specific action.

- Please invest prudently and seek professional help from a financial advisor, investment manager, accountant, lawyer or other professional on matters that you are unsure of or that are unique to your personal circumstances.

- Financial Planning and Investment Management Services provided by J. Bradford Investment Management, Nashua NH.