Fight club mirrors cold reality of work

It’s 5am and the alarm goes off, I’m out of bed and for the next hour I’m being punched in the face. It’s not a conventional wake up routine and I can’t find a scientist to support its benefit, but what I’ve been doing is taking part in a reality TV series call Fighting Fit DXB, which will be on OSN Sports this month. The purpose of the show is to take normal people from all walks of life and train them over eight weeks to be boxers and compete in the ring.

As a man who enjoys a challenge, the competitive nature of the programme has excited me, and learning a new sport has been fascinating. It is a physical challenge that requires immense cardiovascular fitness, power and technique. But the biggest challenge to master any sport is always the mental aspect. Facing fear is an inherent element of boxing, especially for newcomers who aren’t used to being hit hard in the face.

With my first fight coming up on Saturday I feel I am dealing with many of the mental challenges very well. Having played competitive sport at different times of my life, adapting myself to be in the right mental state is something that I believe I have mastered. But there is one challenge I am finding very difficult to deal with, and something I haven’t faced in the other competitive sports I have trained for.

You see, winning a boxing match can be done either through scoring points for clean shots or via knock out. You have to be willing to use either at the right time and neither option is friendly. Over the past couple of months I have become buddies with the other contestants, all of who are interesting characters who I admire. The journey we are on has made us close.

The challenge I face is the moral dilemma of inflicting harm to someone for the purpose of winning, which is especially difficult to deal with when you consider that person to be your comrade. I have not dealt with this in sport before but in business I’m sometimes faced with moral dilemmas. Each time it’s a mental challenge that requires a particular thought process.

You will be hard pressed to find a business person who has gone through their career without having to fire someone, take legal action or cancel a deal at the other party’s loss. All of these are examples of things that sometimes have to be done but we know that it puts the other person at a disadvantage. The majority of the business people I know, myself included, go about business with the intention of behaving in a moral and ethical manner that results in mutually beneficial outcomes. The harsh reality is that life often presents itself in a binary scenario where either I get the short end of the stick, or you do. Much like what I face for my boxing match this weekend, I either knock a man out or it will be me on the floor. I know which one I’d rather be.

So how do we rationalise something that goes against what we feel is morally right? In business and in sport we enter into a game that has a set of rules or a code of ethics. We may not set those rules but we do get to decide if we wish to be in that game, and if we do then we can expect that the other people you deal with should accept your actions as long as it is within those rules.

We have seen through history that people have committed totally immoral acts by carrying out duties that were considered within the rules. The Milgram experiment showed how normal people committed the immoral act of giving an electric shock to someone when following instructions and being told to do so by an authoritative figure. This highlights the importance of choosing which game you step into carefully and always questioning if what you are doing is right.

The hard truth is that in business and in life you will face moral dilemmas, but having a framework for dealing with them will ensure you handle them in the best way possible. It takes courage to step into a game where you have to overcome moral conflicts but those that do it well become heroes.

Paris Norriss is an entrepreneur and partner in Coba Education, which provides educators to schools and institutes

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