Life lessons Bernard Sleijster learnt from boxing

Bernard Sleijster — boxing

In my first blog post I mentioned that as a young man, I spent a great deal of time boxing. With my last amateur fight I even won the district championship in the middle weight class. Boxing has taught me a significant amount about life inside and outside of the ring, and I would like to share some of these points with you.

It got me thinking about health and nutrition

Not unlike most young boys, I grew up with a pretty “normal” childhood. I ate anything I felt like and didn’t think much about my general wellbeing until I started boxing. Our trainers were tough on us, but they had a point: we must look after our bodies.

Over the many years of training, I began to eat better and solidified many healthy habits in my life. It is still a passion to this day to be able to share this with as many children as possible. I have recently founded a children’s charity in Central and South America, where one of my primary goals is to introduce sports to communities where health and fitness is overlooked.

You never stop learning

If you fight against those on the same level as you, you’re never going to learn anything new. By taking on stronger opponents, you pick up new techniques and continue to grow.

The same is true outside of the ring. When faced with difficult challenges, I learnt to welcome them. Not only did they make me a stronger person, but I also came out with new experiences that have proven beneficial to me in the future.

How to stay calm in any situation

I’m sure you would agree that boxing is far from a stress-free sport. It’s not just tough on a physical level, but there is a lot of psychological fear and anxiety that may come with it. From mentally preparing yourself before a big fight, to thinking of the best ways to beat your opponent in the ring, you’ve got to keep calm no matter what. The moment you lose your cool, you know that they won.

The same goes in life, there have been many times at work when I had tight deadlines or less than friendly clients, but from boxing, I learnt to never give in to stress or fear and faced all challenges with a smile.

Sometimes you take a hit, but pain is only temporary

You don’t let the hit destroy you. You may feel rage, you may feel injustice, but you don’t let those feelings consume you. You may get dizzy and lose your bearings. Sometimes you may even fall straight down on your face. But you learn to get up and keep going.

This is one of the most powerful lessons I learnt from boxing. Sometimes, life tries to take you down outside of the ring, but I learnt from a young age that you never give up. I even wrote a separate blog post about it here.

Control your emotions

There are many kinds of boxers out there, with their own preferred techniques. For example, there are brawlers, who go all in and don’t mind taking a few hits as long as they land some too. On the opposite side, there are fighters who are more strategic, kind of like chess players. They see the game as a whole and are not controlled by the opponent’s actions.

I like to think of myself more as a “chess player”. Quick to analyse any situation and make sober, strategic moves in order to win the game. Being well-organised and good at assessing problems is a vital skill, in my opinion, for any business.

Life is just a game, but how we react to it will determine our general success and wellbeing. Thank you boxing, for helping me become more confident and stronger when facing difficult challenges.

~ Bernard Sleijster