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Sage lessons with George Foreman: Getting knocked down

In this blog series, we’re exploring the messages George Foreman shared during his keynote speech at Sage Summit 2017. Wherever you are in your business journey, these lessons from his inspirational life will keep you inspired and fighting another day. Read his first lesson here.

Lesson 2: Accept that you’ll get knocked down.

For those familiar with George Foreman’s story, it’s probably the high points that stand out: becoming the heavyweight champion once, doing it again years later at age 45, and of course, building a successful business empire based on the George Foreman “lean, mean, fat-reducing grilling machine.” But there’s more to his story than those highlights. He had his share of hard knocks—literally.

His early life was tough, and after he dropped out of school, it wasn’t long before he was doing whatever he could to make ends meet. On the stage at Sage Summit, Foreman recounted a time when he and some friends mugged someone in Chicago, and he ended up being chased by dogs. He found himself hiding underneath a house, trying to cover his scent with less-than-potable water. From that literal low point, Foreman had a realization: “If I ever get out from under this house, I’ll never steal anything again.”

Perhaps your own low points aren’t quite as colorful, but the point is, we all have them. They’re an inevitable part of the journey to success. And those weren’t the only ones Foreman encountered—he found his share of challenges in the boxing ring too. As a young adult he expressed an interest in boxing, and after just 10 days of practice, his coach put him in a boxing exhibition. Foreman was up against an opponent who was skinny, but who easily beat him. “They laughed me out of that gym,” Foreman remembered. “I said, ‘I’m never doing that again. That’s too much embarrassment.’”

Even as his skills and his career progressed, he still had to face some challenges: most notably, Muhammad Ali. Foreman fought him in the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. Foreman gave it everything he had, getting knocked down in the eighth round. “But when I jumped up, I was no longer the heavyweight champion of the world,” Foreman said. That loss took him “from pride to pity,” he said.

The lesson here? “You’ve got to fight,” Foreman said, and sometimes you’ll get knocked down. “I went into business thinking that was the easy way out, but you’ve got fight. I never stopped fighting.” No matter the path you choose, there will be challenges and it will be tough. Once you accept that—and then dig deep to meet those challenges—you’re well on your way to success.