Lean In To Life’s Punches Like A Boxer
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” William G.T. Shedd
Years ago, I was in a boxing class learning how to slip punches. My trainer (now close friend) Richard Dimitri gave me a simple tip that turned out to be a valuable life lesson.
Briefly, when someone throws a punch aimed at your face, you have three options:
1- Take the punch (not recommended)
2- Slip it by moving your head just enough out of the punch’s way
3- Parry it by tapping your opponent’s arm to redirect it enough away from your face
So I was practicing slipping my training partner’s punch when Rich came up to me and told me “lean into your opponent, not away from him“. You see, when you slip towards your opponent, you will be well grounded and ready to defend a follow up shot. More importantly, it give you options to counter attack your opponent (who will be more vulnerable until he retracts the arm back into a defending position).
If, on the other hand, you lean back to avoid the punch you might still get hit because you are still in the line of fire and the punch might extend enough to reach it’s target (your face). Even if you manage to avoid the punch, you will be off balance because most of your weight will be on your back leg. If your opponent follows up after the initial punch with other strikes, you are more vulnerable than you were at start. Also, if you throw a counter shot, it will be weak because you are not well grounded.
It’s the same way with life. When you are faced with obstacles and problems in life, you are better leaning into them (i.e. working your way through them vs. going with the flow or quitting). When you do, you will come out stronger and with newer opportunities to tackle. It’s the same if you are in a “good” spot… leaning in will give you the leverage to get the most out of the situation and life.
Here are a few tips so you can lean into life and get the most out of it:
1- Slip the Hit: instead of just leaning straight into the problem, take action to neutralize the threat or minimize it’s impact. Example: We had an angry client who decided not to renew her company’s membership as a result. I called her and listened to her frustration and explained what we were working on improving the product and addressing her concern, but it would take a couple of months to roll it out. Instead of contacting her back when we roll out the upgraded product to renew her contract, we extended her membership for three months free of charge and contacted her once the upgrade was launched to show her how it addressed the issue.
2- Roll with the Punch: Once in a while you will get hit. It’s going to happen wether you slip or not (actually, it will happen more if you don’t slip). Accept that fact and roll with the punches. In boxing, you can minimize the impact of the punch by rolling your head with it. You can do the same in life by rolling with the hits you take instead of resisting. Learn what went wrong and address the root cause for the problem. Toyota has a great process to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the “5 whys” (start by asking why did the problem happen, then why again until you get to the root cause of the issue… fix that and you prevent that problem from happening again and you have a learning organization).
3- Keep your eyes open: In professional sports, your coach will tell you not to close your eyes (e.g. when your oppenent is throwing a punch at you in boxing or when you’re heading a ball in soccer). Do the same in life so you can see the threat clearly and see opportunities that come with it.
4- Stay grounded: once you slip the immediate threat and see an opportunity, you want to take action on it without hesitation or preparation. Stay grounded and ready to take action as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
5- Adapt with experience: There is a saying in boxing “you’re not a real boxer until you break your nose“. The logic is that when you break your nose, you overcome the fear of getting hit. Overcoming that fear liberates you to take more chances and get better at slipping and taking advantage of opportunities you see.
6- Enjoy the process: Boxing is called the sweet science because when you learn how to do it and overcome the fear, it becomes enjoyable. Approach life the same way. Make the conscious decision to enjoy life and the process of leaning into it.
So what are you waiting for. Get out there and lean into your problems. Take a few shots along the way. Jump on opportunities that come your way.