Same Team: A Real-World Fight Parable

Me and one of the MANY young men who have taught me “lesson” or two on the mats.

Once upon a time I got my butt kicked by a youngster while training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was embarrassing. He was as strong as an ox. He hustled me into thinking that he was not experienced. His strength and technique said something different! It was a 5-minute round from hell just trying to survive against this kid. Afterwards as he lay exhausted on the ground I jumped up, smiled, and said “Thanks for the great roll!” Well, that’s what I said with my mouth. My heart and pride said something else! My busted lip, sore shoulder, and throbbing neck said, “Stupid kid. I’ll kill you next time.” The problem is, there was no next time. The kid took off after our round and I never saw him again. Oh well. This experience made me think of what I see happening between generations of leaders.

The young leaders are full of strength and fresh ideas. They just want to prove that they are smart, capable, and valuable. The problem is, the stubborn older leaders are often too busy trying to maintain control that they never give the younger leaders a chance. They micromanage. They dominate conversations. They ignore ideas. What’s worse is that when the dust settles, the younger leaders either walk away because they’re exhausted, or they quit all together. Meanwhile, the older leader wakes up with sore muscles and a headache wondering why they feel so ragged. No one wins that way.

If the older leaders would have just “tapped out” when the time was right, they could have lived to fight another day. If the older leaders would have taken the opportunity to teach and share their experiences while rolling with the younger leaders maybe they’d both still be in the game.

What if the older leader viewed a win as letting the younger leader feel like a champ? What if the older guy realized that “tapping out” does not necessarily mean a loss if it teaches a lesson. After all, in life and in leadership: If you do not lose, you can only win. Win or learn.

We all want to win. I think it’s time we stop fighting against each other and work together to ensure that at the end of the day, everyone leaves the “mat” with some sort of victory.

After all, we’re on the same team.

*Originally published 6/18/13 at…r-the-same-thing/