I love the story that Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, tells in his wonderful memoir " Shoe Dog".
The year was 1997. Still haunted by the Vietnam War, Knight had vowed that someday Nike would have a factory in or near Saigon. By 1997, he had four. He was in Saigon. The company was to be honored and celebrated by the Vietnamese government as one of the nation’s top five generators of foreign currency. At one point, his hosts graciously asked what they could do for him, what would make the trip special and memorable.
“I’d like to meet the 86-year-old General Võ Nguyen Giáp, the man who singlehandedly defeated the Japanese, the French, the Americans and the Chinese", Knight replied.
General Giáp joined the group the next day. The first thing Knight noticed was his size. He was maybe 5’4”. And humble. Knight remembered that he smiled as he did, “Shyly, uncertainly. But there was an intensity about him…a kind of glittery confidence,” the kind he had seen in great coaches and great business leaders.
Giáp waited for Knight to ask a question.
It was simple: “How did you do it?” The corners of Giáp’s mouth flickered. A smile? Maybe?, Knight recalled. Giáp thought and thought. “I was,” he said, “a professor of the jungle.”
“A professor of the jungle.”
For me, it says it all: being close to your work, close to your environment, close to your consumers, close to your competition, close to your people. That kind of closeness--I refer to it as "intimacy"-- grows out of love, a passionate commitment to a purpose. That kind of closeness, that kind of intimacy leads to great accomplishments, to winning, to a maniacal commitment to excellence and, ultimately, to the satisfaction of a job well done.