Category Archives: Careers

Undefeated vs. Unforgettable

Boxing Gloves_11

I’m not exactly sure when I became a fan of boxing.  If I had to pinpoint one boxing contest that cemented my love for the sport it would have to be the “Iron” Mike Tyson vs. James “Buster” Douglas fight in Tokyo, Japan circa 1990.  I am almost certain February 11th, 1:00 AM EST, in the 10th round, may have been one of the quietest moments in history as millions watched in shock as Tyson laid on the canvas unable to find his mouth piece, his legs, or his will to continue.  I had just witnessed the fall of a giant.  The unbeatable had just tasted defeat.  Say what you may about Mike Tyson and his life outside of the ring, his lisps, and “extensive” vocabulary, but no one expected him to lose that fight, or any fight. He was well on his way to becoming the most “unforgettable undefeated” fighter ever.   

Equally as memorable as the knockout was his post fight interview when he asserted, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.”  The events of that night and Tyson’s post fight statement underscores the unpredictability of the sport that makes it so intriguing, and why every match, no matter the opponent, is an upset waiting to happen.  No matter how good or bad the opponent is, a boxer is only one punch away from being knocked out or one point away from losing a decision.  One punch or one point could dramatically change the course of a boxer’s life.

Let’s play a little game.  I want you to review the list of names below and count how many you know from each column.

Muhammed Ali                                   Rocky Marciano

Oscar De La Hoya                             Joe Calzaghe

Roberto Duran                                   Sven Ottke

Julio Ceaser Chavez                         Ike Ibeabuchi

Sugar Ray Leonard                           Harry Simon

George Foreman                               Edwin Valero

Joe Frazier                                        Terry Marsh

Joe Louis                                          Ji-Won Kim

Mike Tyson                                       Michael Loewe

I am going to assume that you recognized more names from the left compared to those on the right.  You many not have even known that the names on the right are boxers as well.  What they all have in common is that they are all in the World Boxing Federation Hall of Fame.  What makes them different is the fact the boxers on the left have all lost multiple fights (ranging from 3-16) and the boxers on the right are undefeated.  For most of the fighters on the left, they returned stronger after each defeat. They actually became better boxers after each loss because their weaknesses were exposed and they learned from them.

Boxing is very similar to life and there is a lot we can learn from the sport.

  1. Having an undefeated record can be a burden.  Once you have lost a fight, the pressure to be perfect is somewhat diminished.  Those who have lost always seem to bring a little something extra to their next fight.
  2. Don’t be afraid to get in the ring even when you think you are outclassed. Take on challenging assignments.  If you are reluctant or afraid, ask yourself “what is the worst that could happen?” You may be wildly successful or you may get knocked out, but …see #3
  3. No one individual loss is the end of your career. We have become so obsessed with perfection that we overlook the opportunity in defeat.
  4. A good offense is often your best defense, however, you must remember to protect yourself at all times.  One should be aggressive in pursuing their professional and personal goals, but we aware of the blind spots that can be developed in doing so.  Examples of protecting yourself from those blinds spots may include developing relationships in other areas of the company, seeking out feedback, acquiring additional skill sets that will make you more attractive across diverse areas of the company, and building external relationship.

I don’t want to take away anything from those fighters that have gone undefeated, but the reason many of them became “forgettable” is because retaining the ’0′ became more important than giving memorable performances, and in the end, being undefeated didn’t result it the fame they though it would deliver.

So do you want to be undefeated or unforgettable?

*Numbers in parentheses reflect losses: Joe Louis (3), Muhammed Ali (5), George Foreman (5), Joe Frazier (4), Roberto Duran (16), Sugar Ray Leonard (3), Oscar De La Hoya (6), Julio Ceaser Chavez (6), and Mike Tyson (6)



My favorite game to play, besides scrabble of course, is spades.  I was first introduced to the game of spades when I was a middle school student.  Learning to play in middle school was a lifesaver because in the seventh grade I started taking classes at my local high school.  Most of the upperclassmen just stared at me like a caged zoo animal until the day they needed a fourth player.

“Hey kid, do you know how to play spades?” I was asked.

“Yep”, I responded

“Do you know how to play well,” they asked.

“Why is that important? You afraid to lose?” I asserted.

The entire class started laughing, and I was invited to sit at the spades table.

Spades continued to be a game that I enjoyed playing throughout high school and college.  When I first stepped onto the campus of Florida A&M University and into my dorm, three complete strangers greeted me.   We were from different parts of the country, sounded very different, had different majors, and had different life experiences.  Other than being four black males randomly chosen to live in the same place, there was one more thing that we had in common; we were all spades players.

After unpacking and saying our good-byes to our families, we sat down to play.  Less than five minutes into the game, I’m sure our neighbors could hear the arguing and shouting coming from our apartment.

What happened you might ask?

We all sat down to play a game we grew up loving but never took the time to understand how each person played the game.  Once we started talking we realized that we all played the game very differently.  Our discussion revealed rules such as first hand bids itself, blind bids, various deuces as trumps, three books for a renege, and finally sand bags.

Most serious spades players equate it to life, and here is why:  In life, when you find yourself in a new environment, you have to learn the rules.  Sometimes you may be able to discover them through observation, but that may take too long. Often times it requires asking upfront or doing a little research.  There are written and unwritten rules in life that if ignored, can not only lead to a breakdown in communication but also lead to negative consequences.

When joining a new company, it is important to understand the company’s culture.  It is not ok to assume that because you could wear jeans on a Friday or come in at 9:00 a.m. at your old company that the same will work at your new company.  Your ability to learn the rules and then play by them impact your ability to be successful at this game I call corporate America.  The same applies for traveling domestically or internationally, composing your behavior in certain professional or social settings, or even dating.  Never make the assumption that what worked somewhere else or with someone else is going to work somewhere new or with someone new.

Lastly, and most importantly, in some situations, these rules are long established and are very difficult to change.  Translation: you will not be able to show up on day one and change the game.  Even if you were in a position where you had the power to do so, culture change is difficult and often requires a significant amount of time.  You would be better off leaving a company rather than trying to change its culture.  On the flip side, some situations are so fluid that the rules change frequently, so you have to be adept at adjusting or you will find yourself out of the game.