Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Beyond the Boxing Ring

When I heard that Mike Tyson was coming to Vancouver - I questioned (as probably most of you) what the hell  he was going to talk about. However, being a sports fanatic, I was curious enough to find a way to go...and his 2 hours of straight talking was not only engaging but more eye-opening than I ever imagined. 

Mike Tyson's talk was comparable to that of Oprah's talk when she recently came to Vancouver - the story of their lives & what they had learned over that time - however, Mike's story was much more relevant to me. Why? Because it was based around his passion & career in sport - something many of are familiar with. 

Just like most high level athletes, he shared stories about his influencers & mentors, his commitments & sacrifices, and of course his wins & loses. Not just in sport but his life. 

For him, boxing was his life. By the time he was 20 he had broken every record which included becoming the youngest boxer to become the WBC, WBA, and IBF heavyweight champion. He won his 1st 19 professional bouts by knockout and 12 of them were in the 1st round. 

Yet as his fame (and in turn his net-worth) grew - he struggled to manage his life & everything that came with the responsibility of being famous. But it wasn't because he was 'crazy'...it was because he lacked the support, stability, and overall sense of identity beyond the boxing ring. His life was boxing. His mentors were his coaches. His stability was within the ring. And when he began to explore items outside of that, he struggled to excel because that is all he knew & all he was taught. 

After he was released from 3 years in prison (from a convicted rape charge) and returned to boxing, he finally decided to hang up the gloves in 2006. In little time, someone who was once worth over 400million dollars, soon claimed bankruptcy. Not only did he lose the wealth he had accumulated throughout his iconic boxing career but he quickly lost himself which resulted in a $2,000/day cocaine addiction. He finally hit rock bottom after several other life & family challenges and in 2010 he made the commitment to get some help and enrol in a very supported rehab program. This led him to get back on his feet and start pursuing his life after boxing which included this speaking tour that was produced & directed by Spike Lee. 

So, how is Tyson's story relevant to all of us? 

Tyson was a phenomenal boxer but he lacked the identity anything outside of that. Once he hung up the gloves, he struggled with who he was, and therefore failed to re-invent himself. And that is the learning lesson. 

As leaders we need to have a level of self-awareness outside of the roles that we play. We need to have a great sense of what we are good at & what we aren't, what we are passionate about & what we aren't...and in essence understand who we are & what our place is in this world. Now, that is a bold statement because for most of us, we will live our lives and never truly figure that out. But the closer we are at doing that - the more we will be fulfilled.

We also need to remain current if we want to remain the leader. We need to stay ahead of the competition, provide the value necessary to those around us to be accepted & respected, and (as mentioned above) we have to develop a sense of self-awareness outside of a specific role (ie. sport, parent, job, etc) so that we can continually re-invent ourselves versus relying on a role / trait that took us to a specific level. 

At the end of the day, if we want to continue to be great - we need to continue to grow. And creating a strong foundation & understanding of ourselves is an integral part of that growth. 

So, THANK YOU Mike for sharing some integral lessons above and beyond your ability to knock someone out!


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