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Dr Tim Marsh | What George Foreman can Teach us About Well-being

Dr Tim Marsh | The Application of Heinrich's Principle in Health and Safety (Safety Thoughts #2)


In our midweek podcast, we bring you the third video in our safety thoughts series from Dr. Tim Marsh of Anker and Marsh. In this video, Tim looks at Muhammed Ali, George Foreman, and Joe Frazer. Tim tells us what the approach of the three boxers can teach us about well-being in our own lives.

Read full transcript

Welcome back. This third short review is really a story of three boxers, to try and illustrate some incredibly important components of excellence, cultural excellence, and excellence individually.

But acceptance, you know, any resilience program will start with first, know yourself, know your strengths, know your weaknesses. Every book written about being a great leader says that you have to understand your strengths and weaknesses. The second boxer really illustrates the issue of bitterness. We talk about mental health. We talk about don’t spend too much time thinking about things that have already happened.

They’re gone. Don’t spend too much time thinking about things that haven’t happened yet. Spend time thinking about what you can do to make them not happen. And the worst emotion of them all is bitterness. It’s just acid to the soul. And the third one is about opportunity and how we can change and we can change for the better even quite late in life. The first boxer, of course, is Muhammad Ali, the most famous sportsman in history.

Revered, loved all over the world, but he couldn’t quit. It got to the stage where he really needed to stop but he just couldn’t accept that he’d come to the end of his career. He fought on. He took punches from boxers that shouldn’t even have been in the ring with him. And he ended up in his last 30 years in a real mess, physically. A real tragedy before he died just a few years ago.

Second boxer is Joe Frazier. Incredibly well-respected as a boxer, incredibly well-respected as a man. A very straight, honest professional. And what happened to him was that he lost 2-1 in the fights with Muhammad Ali. And Ali really got to him with his taunting and his gamesmanship. He ended up a very bitter man.

And indeed his answerphone message towards the end of his life was, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? Not anymore. I did that.” That’s not great and I want to suggest that that’s not unrelated to the fact that he died poor, living alone above a gym, towards the end of his life. The third boxer is George Foreman.

George Foreman is really interesting in this respect. He suffers the worst defeat in the history of sport. Muhammad Ali is the most popular, successful sportsman you can imagine. And at the peak of his powers, he fights Foreman, who’s a massive underdog, and wins. So, you can argue that Foreman has suffered the worst defeat in the history of sport to lose to the great Ali, even though he was the overwhelming favorite.

As you can imagine, it breaks him. He fights a couple more fights but his heart’s not in it. He retires. He’s gone from the sport at 25. But in time, he finds religion and that gives meaning to his life. And to try and raise money for a youth club, I think in Galveston, Texas, certainly Texas somewhere, he’s suggested that he boxes again. And he doesn’t want to.

He says, “That was 20 years ago now. I’m in my 40s now.” But he’s persuaded to take low-risk fights, and he keeps winning. So in due course, he finds a guy called Evander Holyfield. His nickname was actually “The Real Deal.” And obviously, Foreman can’t win this fight. But he does much better than people thought. It was kind of a TV gimmick, really.

But he does much better than people thought. So in a couple of months, when Holyfield has an off night against a young man called Michael Moorer, Foreman is watching this in Texas and says, “Well, I could beat him. I’ll wait for him to get tired. When he gets tired, he might make an amateur mistake, and if he does, I’ll chin him.” And he does.

That’s exactly what happens. The guy is miles ahead on points, gets tired, Foreman wins. At this point, he’s a really nice man. Everybody loves him. He gets the endorsement to make some grills. They sell fantastically well. I think he got $183 million when he sold out in his shares.

And somewhere in Texas tonight is a really happy, really healthy, really rich, really popular man called George Foreman. And the whole story, I think, begs two questions. The first one is, you know, “Who won?” And I want to ask the grandchildren, you know, for their answer to that, because I want to suggest, of course, that in the long run, Foreman won.

And the second question, to take us right back to the beginning of the first video when we talked about learning, “Could he have won the way that he won, had he won that fight in Zaire?” And I want to suggest that actually losing that night was the best thing that ever happened to him because life is long and there’s always the opportunity to regroup, and refresh ourselves, and turn ourselves into better people.

So with that story of the three famous boxers, that takes us full circle. You know, we get out of life, on balance, what we put into it, whether it’s safety culture, whether it’s cultural excellence, whether it’s well-being, mental health. We can have an impact on what the outcome will be.

It’s a question of getting into the right habits and doing the right amount of hard work. Thank you ever so much for listening.