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10 Leadership Lessons from "The Boxer"

10 Leadership Lessons from "The Boxer"

Have you ever done the “High/Lows” Exercise? It’s where you look back at the decades of your life and career and you plot out the personal and professional highs and lows. No one can tell you how high the highs should be or how low the lows should be. The idea is to see if there are any observations or patterns between the ebbs and flows of your journey. I did this exercise a while back and I marveled at what made the list and why those events or memories stuck with me. In some cases, they were a point in time occurrences…a flash in the pan…that if you blinked you could have missed it but for whatever reason that moment in time had a lasting impression. 

I am continuously fascinated and curious about why certain things stick with us and others just don’t register no matter how big or small they were. I am not sure I will live long enough to put all the pieces together to understand the criteria that etches or burns a moment into our brains.

As you would imagine, the birth of my children made the High-Low chart. In both cases it was tough to quantify the “high” associated with what this meant for my life but also the admission that there were lows associated with it as well. In the case of my youngest daughter, Emily, it meant more than 10 days in ICU over Y2K (a story for another day). For my oldest daughter, Katie, it was much less dramatic but still an impactful experience.

One of the moments leading into the birth of my first child that clearly replays in my head is sitting in the bathtub with this gigantic belly and sobbing uncontrollably, scared to death on how this baby was coming out. When my husband and I talked about having a baby, pregnancy was a concept and I hadn't REALLY thought through. That critical piece that happens between knowing you are having a baby and holding that sweet smelling, beautiful, cuddly warm baby in your arms…kind of a big deal. Bit of a miss that I ignored that part of the process. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment and I struggled to see how I had what it took to get through it. Everything about the decision we had made and the path we were on came into sharp focus and there was no turning back no matter how physically and emotionally tired I was. I also realized that if I thought this was hard and she wasn't even delivered yet, did I have the stamina and where with all to get through the weeks and months ahead when the “real work” began!

Needless to say, I sucked it up….got over myself and a few days later I was a new Mom. I am sure everyone has unique memories of those first few days at home where you and your spouse are on your own and you realize that there is no hand book on what you are supposed to do. Not only do you NOT have all the skills and expertise to care for this bundle of joy but you truly have no idea what it means to only live on four hours sleep at a time…for weeks on end! In my case, I tried to add process and consistency where I could even though I knew in my heart of hearts that I had NO control of what was happening…this new being in my life was truly in charge no matter what I liked to think or what others told me. 

One of my routines when I fed Katie at night was that I put on Simon and Garfunkel on the CD player (yes – I said CD Player for those that remember them) and listened to “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. Now…we had a CD Juke Box at the time that held over 100 CDs and why I chose that song out of all the songs that I could have played is a mystery to me even to this day. Regardless…that was part of my middle of the night routine and my overall memory and impression was that it gave me great joy and peace to have that quiet moment, with my new baby girl listening to that song.

Fast forward 21 years later and I really think there are a lot of similarities between our leadership journey and “The Boxer”......

In the clearing stands a boxer,

And a fighter by his trade

And he carries the reminders

Of ev'ry glove that laid him down

Or cut him till he cried out

In his anger and his shame,

"I am leaving, I am leaving."

But the fighter still remains

Here is what I believe the metaphor of the Boxer tells us about leadership….

To be a successful boxer (and thus a leader) you have to:

  1. have “Heart”

  2. be able to get back up after you have been repeatedly knocked down – we all get hit…get used to it

  3. have stamina

  4. be quick on your feet

  5. know when to regroup and defend versus going on the offence

  6. have a good coach

  7. belief in self

  8. push through the pain

  9. courage (which doesn’t mean acting fearlessly – it means acting despite being fearful)

  10. know that in order to win you will often have to lose a few times – we all got bruises

Leadership questions of the week for YOU:

  • What is your most impactful memory of being a parent for the first time?

  • Is there a song that you associate with that time in your life and that you have carried with you?

  • What do you think of the Boxer Metaphor and its association with life and leadership or do you have another one that comes to mind?

  • What do you think of the list of similarities or traits between the boxer and leadership – do you have a favorite? Any you would add or remove?

  • Do you have a Boxer moment lately either personally or professionally?”

Thanks for reading and remember....YOU make a difference!

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We Don’t Leave Anyone Behind!

We Don’t Leave Anyone Behind!