With the Olympics fast approaching, it's an all too easy analogy to make. The athletes at the top have a way of making something incredibly difficult, look effortless. So too, does Nicola Woods.
Russian superstar and swimming Tsar Aleksandr Popov would line up amongst the best in the world looking more out for a Sunday stroll than a world class sprint, during his supreme reign over the 50 and 100m freestyle titles. The papers following his wins always said the same;
".....how on earth can he yawn, look lethargic and even somewhat bored behind the blocks, and then cruise to a sub 49 second victory. It's unheard of!".
Fashion designer and owner of label Beautiful Soul London, Nicola Woods, has the ability to do just this - with time itself. While the rest of us scramble to get ourselves out the door of a morning and to our meetings on time, I couldn't help but picture Nicola gliding out of her front door, coffee in hand, paper under the arm and a focussed plan as to how the day will run, knowing full well she'll give tomfoolery no dime she doesn't have.
Incredibly busy and working like the proverbial smooth duck on the surface, all legs under, churning the water, slow and steady - she manages to meet with me in effortless gentility, in a studio space that seemed to transcend any concept of mobile phones (mine happily ignored and blinking in the far corner), hers in front of her, yet unobtrusive.
This time belonged to me.
For a woman who's leading her own business and managing a freelance team (including her lovely Irish intern), she makes it look scarily easy.
It's at this moment that the land line rings in Nicola's Notting Hill studio, interrupting our conversation.
"Hi, yes, I'm in a meeting at the moment, I'll get back to you".
And you know she will, in efficient time.
There's such an obvious elegant grace in thought, presentation and purpose (and that's just the lady herself) - that it's hard not to be suitably impressed by the fact that she's cleverly remained consistent in voice and brand, and grown her business from season to season in an admirably organic fashion.
Not without hurdles, (like any real success story), Beautiful Soul continues to evolve and much like the quietly tough, resilient and ambitious woman behind the label, it's fast becoming a fixture of progression and the epitome of everything modern British luxury should entail.
"Oh I have definitely had some tough moments, she concedes". "It's difficult when starting out in the business because I'm so much like a sponge - I want to listen to the advice people give me. What becomes hard is filtering what's best for you, which isn't always the popular choice. In the end I had to create a business map for myself. I had to have clarity on who I was selling to and remain true to who I am and where I wanted to take the label, always thinking of the bigger picture and the long term - if that means I'm not "edgy", then so be it".
Clarity can be attributed in part, along with perseverance, for the recent ability to bring business and creativity to a head and fire on all cylinders. It's little surprise to those familiar with her work ethic that she's now being featured across the pages of Grazia and her threads on the backs of British starlets.
Not just a beautiful soul but a persistent one, our meeting was confirmation for me that perseverance is key. Cheesy quotes become frequented for a reason. There is really no short cut to success.
Believe in yourself and persevere. What other advice does one need?
I see it time and time again. The formula remains the same. The pay offs are as big as you care to dream they'll be.
Thank you to Nicola for making a bleak and rainy Monday morning a stark reminder of what it's really all about.