Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ten Lessons from a Boxer

Parents take their children to sporting events, science fairs, libraries, music courses and cooking classes because they want to pass on life lessons, lessons often hard to put into words. Recently we got to talking about some of our own childhood experiences with our clients. That conversation generated a fascinating list we're calling “Ten Lessons from a Boxer.”

1. Keep your head down and hands up

Sport is supposed to be fun, but is usually hard work as well. You need to focus, and keep your gloves up and ready for what’s next. No looking up, looking around, daydreaming or dozing. Work hard; play hard.

2. Turn up for training

You might think you just get into a ring and belt the heck out of the other guy. You’d be wrong. There’s an art and a science to boxing well. You need to practice enough that it comes naturally, and you need to study enough that you get the form and execution right. You can’t do that if you don’t turn up because you have a case of the sniffles, you had a late night or it’s cold out.

3. Get on the front foot

Unless you really, really need to back off and regroup, the best strategy is always to take the game to the opposition. Sometimes you can be tempted to ignore a problem and hope it will go away. Procrastination is a huge problem. Remember, no-one ever got into a ring and won by hiding in the corner. You have to tackle life head on.

4. You need good people in your corner

After you’ve done a few rounds with your personal demons everybody needs to get back into their corner for a while and take a rest. When that happens, you need supporters. You don’t get anywhere without a lot of help from a lot of people. When someone has just watched you go toe to toe for a bit they often have good advice…take it.

5. Once you’re in the ring you’re all alone

Make sure you’ve prepared, and believe in yourself, because once the rumpus starts you have to rely on yourself. Boxing builds self-reliance. It’s just you and your opponent and a pair of gloves and a roped-in ring. What happens is up to you.

6. Few are fooled by fancy footwork

Human creatures have amazing moves. Ever try to hold someone accountable who isn't ready or isn't organized to be responsible? Get ready for the “shiny object” game.  A dozen excuses for why it didn’t get done, it’s not their fault or they avoid it all together by distracting you with their moves (fancy marketing, complicated spreadsheets, evasive language, etc.). At the end of a boxing bout, results count.

7. You’re only as good as your opposition

Boxers are matched up according to weight and experience. If you’re good, you can expect your opponents are going to get better, just as you will by being matched up with them. If it’s all too easy, chances are you’ve rigged the system somehow and you’re not progressing. Seek out worthy opponents that stretch you.

8. You don’t win them all

Sooner or later you’ll be counted out or you’ll get beaten by someone bigger, meaner and faster than you or someone will score more points on you. Tough! Life happens. It’s not about the match you’ve lost; it’s about whether or not you come back. Suck it up and train for the next time.

9. Be magnanimous in victory

When you do win: be gracious, be civil, be a good sport. Boxers stand together at the end of every fight, and if you lost you congratulated the other. Thank them for a good fight. Hold the ropes open for the loser, and let him leave the ring with dignity. Celebrate wins? Yes! Just do it with dignity in mind.

10. Successes and failures are rarely as clear in life as in boxing

That said, getting knocked around in life and work is pretty much guaranteed. Enjoy it and the lessons you learn along the way.

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