What can career people learn from Pacquiao?

ExecuTips - By Robert Labayen

Posted at May 08 2015 03:59 AM | Updated as of May 08 2015 11:59 AM

Eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao listens to coaches

When I was a young advertising copywriter, my boss told me “more than half of the time, our best works don’t get approved. That’s why we can’t succeed with just flashes of genius. We need real creative stamina."

Remembering it now, I think of Manny Pacquiao. He trains to make lots and lots and lots of punches. More than half of them may miss the target. But he never runs out of power, he never gets tired.

How else can the boxing icon inspire us in our work?

Commitment to a dream

When Pacquiao was in his teens, he already discovered his great potential as a boxer and he decided that’s what he was going to be. So, he travelled to the city and left everything behind. He was not getting any fights at first. He lived on the streets hungry, but kept the dream even though it was tempting to find a more steady source of income.

The Entrepreneur website narrated a similar pursuit of a passion by the founders of Apple. To fund the creation of their first computer, “Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen microbus, and Steve Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard calculator." Working in a garage, I believe they didn’t have many other possessions.

Intellectual Humility

Pacquiao was a total unknown in the United States when he first met Freddie Roach. The six-time Trainer of the Year admitted that after only a few rounds of mitts training, he was convinced that “Manny was special." Manny was already an international champion before he met Freddie. But instead of just relying on his natural gift, he knew that he needed a higher level of training.

In the book "Outliers," Malcom Gladwell theorizes that for anyone to be outstanding in a chosen field, one’s gift should be enhanced by 10,000 hours of practice. Good mentorship will be of great advantage, too.

Liz Wiseman is a world-renowned executive advisor. In the book "Multipliers," she said that some executives are “intellectual supremacists.” They are “diminishers” of talent because they believe that there are only a few other smart people who can help them. On the other hand, the “multipliers” will “see their organization as full of talented people who are capable of contributing at much higher levels."

Pacquiao recognizes the talents of the training staff and his physical conditioning expert. He also doesn’t fail to attribute much of his success to them.

Expanding capabilities

Many thought that Pacquiao was a one-handed killer, relying solely on his left fist. But if you watch his fights in slow motion, you will see that his right hand has been trained to be equally lethal. It was, in fact, responsible for one of Ricky Hatton’s earlier knockdowns.

Connor Ruebusch of Bloody Elbow thinks of Manny’s right as the more dangerous weapon because his opponents prepare to watch out for his left.

Whatever our job, it is always better to broaden our repertoire of capabilities than just being a one-trick pony.

Different plans for different problems

In the book "33 Strategies of War," David Greene explained that some historical generals lost their battles because they used tactics that worked in a previous war. He warned us against being like those military leaders when we are “reacting to things that happened in the past, applying theories and ideas that we digested long ago but that have nothing to do with our predicament in the present.”

So, he advises us to remember that “nothing stays the same in life, and keeping up with circumstances as they change requires a great deal of mental fluidity.”

Now, we may understand why Pacquiao moves and punches differently each bout. For example, Pacquiao’s moves against Oscar De La Hoya were so different from his maneuvers against Miguel Cotto.

Making People Happy

We often hear Manny say “I want to make the people happy." That’s how he differentiates himself from fighters who run and duck to the point of boring the spectators. Pacquiao, one of the most exciting fighters of all time, is like a company who lists delighting the customers as top-most on its agenda.

Not burning bridges

At one point in his career, Pacquiao was called the "Mexicutioner.” Manny asked not be called by that “honor” anymore because he didn’t like to offend the countrymen of his many fallen opponents. To protect the dignity of his losing adversaries, Pacquiao has a habit of describing them as “tough opponents.” He openly admitted that he had a hard time against Antonio Margarito even though he actually reconfigured the gigantic opponent’s face.

Today, Mexicans root for Pacquiao when he is not fighting a Mexican.

I think it is always best to keep a good relationship with everyone, including competitors. There is really nothing gained with having an enemy.

Taking risks

Manny rose to phenomenal fame by taking on the big guys. The much bigger guys. He wouldn’t have become Pacquiao had he chosen to stay safe.

Margie Warell wrote three books entitled "Stop Playing Safe," "Find Your Courage," and "Brave." In a recent blog article, she said that some people and companies fail to achieve more success because they are risk-averse. She said we may “exaggerate the worst-case scenario…and underestimate our ability to handle the consequences of risk.” She also noted that sometimes, we justify our safe decisions by "discounting or denying the cost of inaction and sticking with status quo."

If Floyd Mayweather did not take the risk of fighting Pacquiao, he may have realized later on that he wasted all his other achievements. He would have been remembered as the one who refused to fight the best.

Taking risks is not a guarantee of success. (That’s why they are risks.) But as former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said, “there are times you need the courage to take a great leap; you cannot cross a chasm in two small jumps."

Rising from failure

Manny has lost before. But he is always a better fighter afterwards. He knocked Erik Morales out in the 10th round of their second battle and in the third round of their last encounter. He subdued the elite fighter Timothy Bradley after his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.

Ed Catmull is the President of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the book "Creativity, Inc." he narrated how nearly all the Pixar stories would fail so many times in internal story conferences before they would become box-office hits. They were glad they failed at first. He even cited Andrew Stanton, writer and director of Bug’s Life, who always told the staff to “fail early and fail fast” so they can address weak points before it’s too late.

A sense of mission

Perhaps the biggest factor of success is motivation.

In the beginning, Pacquiao needed to fight because his family had to survive poverty. When he became a legend, he had to win because millions of Filipinos would be more devastated than him if he lost. These things put a load on his shoulders but also lit a fire in his belly. When he turned Christian, he started dedicating every fight to the Glory of God. It has become both his motivation and his reassurance.

In the Business Insider, Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of people operations, cited a research by Wharton professor Adam Grant. Findings showed that productivity increases by as much as five times when people are able to connect their jobs to something meaningful.

That’s a lot of Pacquiao inspirations for the workplace.

And when you’re stressed, try singing, too.

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About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.