July 19, 2024

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3 Lessons I Learned About Entrepreneurship From Boxing

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If you pursue anything hard in life, you’ve likely dealt with sacrifice, whether that’s a sacrifice of personal health, mental health, relationships, time or finances. Likely while chasing that goal, one or more of those things have suffered. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama said, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.” He goes on to get far more philosophical and far more depressing, but the above quote is a great testament to the power of chasing dreams without being mindful of what you need to not just survive, but thrive.

Now, that’s not to say making sacrifices in pursuit of goals isn’t a good thing — it’s usually necessary. But being intentional about what you’re giving up for what you’re trying to get is how one lives a life without regrets. This is something that has remained relevant in my daily work to become a better leader, and while I’ve grown over the years of running businesses and learned along the way, nothing has made me grow and learn more than getting in the ring.

A little over a year ago, I was reconnecting with an old friend from college, and he mentioned his new fascination with boxing. I had been around it as a teenager with friends pursuing it, but it had never been something I actively took part in. He convinced me to go with him and retry it in my adulthood. New Year’s resolution and all, I went, and the rest was history. That one day in Nashville’s Fighters Boxing Gym hitting heavy bags sparked an obsession which has resulted in boxing becoming a large line item on my expenses, more than half my laundry and most of my personality.

Here are the three most important lessons I’ve learned so far from the squared circle.

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1. Resiliency is mandatory for success

Working in a startup environment where every deal matters and sparring in boxing are more alike than you think. For one: You have to have thick skin. No matter how much we try to “cut off the ring” with better services and have the client “on the ropes” with making a purchase decision, sometimes the potential client changes their direction and hires someone else. Those punches, while they may not hurt as much if you focus on each individual hit, but over several rounds, they start to add up. Learning to keep fighting and not accept defeat is how you force the fight to a decision without getting KO’d. In other words, if you’re not resilient and you didn’t stumble on hidden treasure, you likely won’t last long in business.

As an entrepreneur of a startup that never took on investment, my back has been against the ropes more times than I can count. This key lesson of staying resilient and not taking “no” for an answer has allowed me to stay determined and motivate my team to develop new verticals without having to close shop or lay people off. I attribute my ability to pivot my company to offering influencer marketing campaigns to brands and musicians/labels in a large way to boxing. Staying adaptable and being unwilling to throw in the towel. Boxing took me there.

2. Focused time spent learning

Focusing on learning is necessary for all great battles. There are no cutting corners on this one. If you don’t put the hours in, you won’t prevail. That goes for the time in the ring or in the boardroom. You need to work on the basics of being a good leader as much as you need to work on the fundamentals in the gym. Muhammad Ali said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” Muhammad Ali would’ve been great in any profession. If you don’t carve out uninterrupted time to improve, you won’t improve.

In my years as an entrepreneur, I’ve struggled to find uninterrupted time for growth. Digging into redlines, a client calls me. Working on a proposal, an employee asks me a question. Learning the importance of unavoidable “offline” time has made me more demanding of that in the workplace. I am now able to whiteboard, learn about new lanes or do whatever else I need to without compromising or being half distracted. If you’re distracted while boxing, you’ll feel it (literally). If you’re distracted at work, you’ll feel it differently — but both are equally detrimental to winning.

Related: 7 Lessons From the Boxing Ring

3. Your corner can make or break you

A boxer is usually only as good as his corner. To be truly great, you need a great trainer and cut man, just like an entrepreneur needs great leaders within their business and advisors outside of their business. The people you surround yourself with in either realm must be people who can be supportive and are also not afraid to speak their minds when things need improving. I’m far deeper into my entrepreneurial journey than my boxing journey; however, the coaches I’ve spent my time learning from, hitting mitts with, and sparring at The Punch Club in Los Angeles and Fighters in Nashville, have been the same type of people I try to surround myself with in business. Don’t be afraid to make changes if those people aren’t the right fit.

It’s easy in the workplace to be okay with keeping things the way they are. Justifying actions that shouldn’t be justified because of busyness. Boxing has taught me that every voice in the room can make or break winning or losing. It’s helped me to be more proactive with making changes when things aren’t working.

So the next time you’re exhausted, worried about staying on your feet and the bell rings — or the Google Calendar alarm dings — be ready to fight with everything you’ve got left. I know I will be.