April 27, 2005
It was no surprise that Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won the praise of critics worldwide and took home four Oscars at the Academy Awards. An exceptional drama that left audiences breathless, the story of Hillary Swank’s character, waitress-turned-boxer Maggie Fitzgerald, is about more than just the struggles of a young woman fighting her way to the top of her sport. And the values represented in the film are not just those of a young boxer but of almost anyone struggling to reap the rewards of their hard work and determination. Million Dollar Baby provides a poignant lesson in achieving success and avoiding failure.
So what is it that we can learn from Maggie’s experience in the ring?
Rule #1: Assess the situation and the players involved
In business as well as boxing, one’s ability to assess a situation and size up the players is one of the most important factors. However, Maggie and her trainer Frankie undermine their hard work by completely overlooking this during Maggie’s most challenging match. During the first round, her opponent makes it obvious that she is willing to ignore the rules and fight dirty. Although Maggie ends up taking a beating, she doesn’t seem to grasp that her adversary is willing to do anything to hold on to her title.
Rule #2: Learn from past mistakes
In the third round, Maggie forgets another important rules: Learn from your mistakes. Maggie manages to infuriate her opponent as she gains both confidence and success in the third round. Her opponent, knowing that she was able to get an extra punch in after the bell, lets loose on Maggie again just after the referee calls time. Surprisingly, neither Maggie nor her trainer anticipate another low blow, even though the strategy was one her opponent had used earlier in the match. As a result, the blow proves to be crucial and costs Maggie the championship, her dreams of success as a boxer and, ultimately, her life.
Thankfully, failing to properly assess a situation rarely proves to be as dramatic in everyday life as it does for Maggie. However, we often forget to properly assess a situation and our own opponents when creating our own game plan. As was seen in Million Dollar Baby, it was hard work and determination that led Maggie to the championship fight. However, had she used her head as much as her heart, she would have tasted the success she worked so hard for.
Karin is a business coach and a specialist in cross-cultural understanding, communication and team-building.