How to Take a Punch at Work

Updated: Feb 18, 2019



If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve likely realized that I’m a boxing fan. When you like a sport as much as I like boxing, it becomes more than a hobby. It becomes a metaphor for life.


My favorite part of boxing isn’t actually the fighting. I’m fascinated by the psychology of the fight. I’m intensely interested in the personal stories behind each fighter and what drives them to endure the punishment of the ring.


Some boxers love the art of the sport, the “sweet science” as they say. Some love the money or the fame. But some boxers actually just enjoy getting punched in the face.

Don’t believe me? Watch some old interviews with the famed Boston-area boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. The real life of Micky, his brother Dicky (also a professional boxer) and their nutty family were chronicled the 2010 film The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg as Micky and Christian Bale as Dicky. But honestly, the real-life Micky Ward is infinitely more fascinating.


Micky liked getting punched in the face.


Micky was known for his ability to absorb incredible amounts of punishment and keep on fighting. He was the real-life Rocky Balboa. For boxing fans, his “toe-to-toe” brawling style meant breathtaking edge-of-your-seat fights. It wasn’t pretty. His fights were often brutal and bloody slugfests.


Micky didn’t float like the tactician Ali. He wasn’t elusive like Mayweather. He mostly stood directly in front of his opponents, who were often more technically skilled, and just started throwing fist-bombs. He also started absorbing them.


He never ran away and was willing to stand face-to-face, round after round, with men that should have terrified him. Sometimes he won. Sometimes he didn’t. But no one left a fight with Micky unscathed. His career record of 38 wins (28 by KO) and 13 losses, won’t impress many casual fans. But die-hard boxing fans don’t love Micky for his record.


They love him because he has incredible “heart” and an inhumanly iron chin. Micky was a great boxer because he loved the essence of the sport in its brutal simplicity.


Like Micky, you can learn to like getting punched in the face (metaphorically speaking). In the context of leading conflict outside the ring, once you learn to move toward fear, how to poke someone in the eye and embrace the suck – you need to be careful. You just might start enjoying yourself.

In boxing training, it takes a while to learn how to move, how to throw a proper punch, and how to take one. Even when you’re wearing lots of safety gear and only going three-quarter speed, sparring can be intimidating at first. Even people who’ve been in lots of street fights have to learn how to fight off tunnel vision and panic, relax and be purposeful in their choices and movements.


Expertise takes time. There are no long-term shortcuts to competence.


When you work hard at mastering a skillset, inside the ring or out, there’s nothing wrong with taking some pleasure in deploying those skills – at least a little.


Once you get over the apprehension and anxiety around conflict, you’ll be ready to up your game. You’ll be able to think in the middle of the chaos of the “ring”. Over the next few weeks I be sharing articles on the next layer of skills you’ll need to lead conflict at work.


For some additional inspiration, check out this Dropkick Murphys song dedicated to “Irish" Micky Ward, The Warrior’s Code.


Check out How to Take a Punch at Work (Part 2) for more strategies and tips.


Check out the Leading Conflict store for practical and hard-hitting resources that will help you put these ideas into action.


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