Guest post by Paul De Joe, CEO at Ecquire.
My hometown of Youngstown, Ohio once proudly “produced the steel that helped the Union win the War”, but is better known today as “The World’s 3rd Most Corrupt City”. The 2011 Census established Youngstown as the US city with the lowest median income for its size. And In the late 50’s, Youngstown was so identified with gangland slayings that the phrase “Youngstown tune-up” became a nationally popular term for a car-bombing.
Today, there’s still not much to be excited about in Youngstown. So when local boxing prospect Kelly Pavlik rose through the ranks, the town got behind him in a hurry. His fights were more than just boxing matches and he’s more than just a fighter. He holds the hope and pride for an entire city in his gloves.
Pavlik miraculously went undefeated and finally got his shot at the middleweight champion of the World, Jermain Taylor. The title fight was held at the legendary Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, an hour’s drive from my college campus. I had been talking up Pavlik for months to my friends in Philadelphia, and they eagerly joined me to cheer him on. Also in attendance were over 6,000 anxious Youngstonians, nearly 10% of the town population.
“…he came off the floor and came back. When that happens… when you put a guy down and he comes back and you’ve hit him with everything and all of a sudden he comes back and he’s still coming and throwing punches, that’s gotta do something mentally for you and what it did for Jermain was he had to say to himself that, ‘This guy is still coming. He’s still here?!?’”
Seconds into the first round, it was clear that Pavlik wasn’t ready, and it was unbearable to watch him take an unrelenting barrage of punches to the face. When Kelly fell to his knees in the middle of the ring, 6,321 people in Boardwalk Hall felt their hope and pride fall to the floor with him.
Pavlik was overpowered, outmatched, outboxed and knocked down. Embarrassed, bloodied, dazed and overwhelmed, Kelly jumped back to his feet in less than a second.
His resolve resulted from a lifetime of beatings from an unforgiving town, being the youngest of three boys, and torment for being tall and skinny with a lisp. Taylor could do damage with his fists, but could not bring down Pavlik’s determined spirit.
Lennox Lewis, one-time heavyweight champion of the World commented:
“Kelly Pavlik came off the floor and came back. When that happens… when you put a guy down and he comes back and you’ve hit him with everything and all of a sudden he comes back and he’s still coming and throwing punches, that’s gotta do something mentally for you and what it did for Jermain was he had to say to himself that, ‘This guy is still coming. He’s still here?!?'”
Pavlik came back with such vengeance that the referee had to step in to stop the fight in the seventh round. Bedlam, chaos, pride, joy, and elation burst forward from the stands. Pavlik climbed to the top of the ropes to salute an entire city over the backdrop of Jim Lampley screaming:
“There’s a brand new middleweight champion!!! He’s from Youngstown, Ohio!!!”
Pavlik’s power can be applied to other disciplines, like the business world. According to Mark Andreesen, the most difficult thing you will do with your company is manage your own psychology, just like in life.
When a difficult decision is in front of us or when we get knocked down, we often feel paralyzed. We let other thoughts creep in and compound our biggest fears and no matter how unlikely, we make them feel probable. What we fail to realize is that it’s not this decision that matters.
There are more difficult situations and more difficult decisions coming down the road in our lives. Companies have shifts in management, downsize, grow, pivot and wind down. We may all deal with unimaginable difficulties and challenges where we do not have the answers but it won’t stop the fact that we’re all confronted with them.
The current decision facing you is not what matters. The current decision facing you is practice. Practice in discernment, determination, and decision.
If you let each challenge and difficult decision compound in your head without action or without moving forward, you’ve missed the opportunity to build your bulletproof vest for when the decisions really matter. It’s more important to build your process for handling tough decisions than it is to focus on the decision at hand.
Pavlik’s decision to simply get up was isolated and independent of whether or not he could win a fight or if he was going to be knocked down again. He used the power of the binary reaction to simplify the challenge in front of him and see it as a one-off.
The options are simple: get excited at the opportunity to defeat this, then take action and move forward or let the fear sink in. Always react quickly before fear can gain momentum so you can keep moving the ship forward. You’ll become accustomed to acting swiftly and recognizing that a challenge is always an opportunity to become more bulletproof. These challenges will eventually spark reactions from you instead of over-analysis and indecision.
Pavlik got up because that’s who he is and that’s what he was better at doing in the fight than his opponent. Pavlik became so good at getting up that this was not a decision, it was a reaction. At the moment he got up, he was more excited at the opportunity to win the fight than the fear of losing and the pain of being knocked down again. He made an entire city proud to be from Youngstown again. As Jack Dempsey said and Pavlik showed,“Champions get up when they can’t.”
In addition to Pavlik’s title, his purse for the fight was more than $600,000. He was barraged with fanfare and adulation and now had financial independence beyond his wildest imagination. Mike Tyson used that kind of money to buy a tiger.
Kelly Pavlik left his paycheck in his hotel room. He was so excited to get back to Youngstown that nothing else, not even life changing money, mattered as much as rushing back to his people to celebrate the power of simply getting back up.
About the Author
Paul DeJoe is the CEO at Ecquire, mentor to the Thiel Foundation, Entrepreneur in Residence at Fairbridge, Author and advisor to MistoBox, Glider, Culinary Agents & Zagster. MS in Accounting, MS in Investment Management. He has some fake teeth from playing pro hockey, grew up in “Murder Town USA”, and thought HTML 5 was a nerf gun, so naturally, he co-founded a software company.
Image source: HBO
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