3 life lessons from the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight

Jonathan Yabut
3 life lessons from the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight
In the spirit of celebrating our Pambansang Kamao, and our pursuit of hacking the corporate world, here are life lessons Manny Pacquiao teaches us despite his defeat

Yes, we’re still not over the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. 

It will probably take a week more to accept the fact that our Pinoy hero wasn’t able to bring home the bacon. Despite his loss, Manny remains the winner in our hearts. His failure in this match made us realize more how much we value him for being the ultimate Pinoy pride.

The support wasn’t just evident among his fellowmen; the rest of the world clearly cheered for Manny as the real winner.

In the spirit of celebrating our “Pambansang Kamao,” and our pursuit of hacking the corporate world, here are some life lessons Manny Pacquiao teaches us despite his defeat. 

1. Your choice of “being feared” vs “being liked” to succeed in life matters

You may have noticed last weekend that while Mayweather was already too expensive or rich to endorse any brand, his boxing shorts carried zero logos compared to Manny’s. He is the star athlete that sponsors “don’t want to touch,” as CNN quotes. 

After all, which company likes to be associated with someone who prefers “money” as his nickname? His last endorsement deal was in 2009 for a telecommunications firm and a shoe company and neither was renewed the year after. His records of domestic violence and racist rants online will probably take more than an Olivia Pope to clean his image.

This is not to say that Manny is a saint (as our Pinoy hero himself has his own fair share of personal shortcomings), but the latter does a better job in keeping an image that the general public aspires for. 

The biggest dilemma everyone faces in life is the choice between “being feared” versus “being liked” to succeed in our goals. There is no right or wrong option to this. Our more prosperous neighbors like Singapore and Malaysia proved that in the context of pursuing progress amidst chaos, an iron hand can be effective (and in the long run, earns the respect of people after good results become visible).

Research shows that a commanding ruler works best if subordinates accept hierarchy as part of society. 

But nice guys can also finish first as long as they use the right strategies that prevent others from “taking advantage of them,” as studies suggest. The Harvard Business Review cites studies where acts of altruism – something which Manny is known for – can increase someone’s status in the group. Leaders who project warmth (and smile like Manny), even before they exhibit competence, are trusted more than others. 

While the numbers clearly show that Manny lost the fight, you can say that he was the real victor in the eyes of the spectators, the battle which we are all part of in real life.

The reason was simple: people loved him more.

He smiled while he was being weighed, he shared his personal life, he introduced us to his mother (and the world was never the same again), he sang when there was a microphone.

He knew that even if he was a sports deity, he took time to show that he’s also one of us. In the context of sports – where every athlete is celebrated with the ideals of motivation, discipline, and drive – Manny simply wins the people’s hearts by a mile, and a smile. 

2. Look for a “higher purpose” once you reach the top

While I’m not a big fan of Pacquiao as a politician, you have to give it to the man who decided to get out of the ring to help and inspire people to greatness.

For someone who proudly raises the Philippine flag, Manny popularized the “Philippine” brand more than balut or dried mangoes did. Show me a foreigner who won’t exclaim “Pacquiao” at you when he finds out that you’re a Pinoy!

Manny demonstrated the fighting spirit Filipinos are known for when faced with challenges, whether in or out of the ring: typhoons, floods, “misencounters,” and whatnot.

For someone who generously gives back to the people he associates himself with, Manny proves that success is best enjoyed when it is shared with others. 

Illustration by Nico Villarete/Rappler

Like Manny, people who sustain their success all realize one thing when they get to the top: they start thinking about the others first before themselves.

They reach out to discover their higher purpose. They look for opportunities to develop people because they feel good when they share what they know. They take accountability when their people fail to succeed because they own the responsibility of setting them up for success.

Beyond making fame or making more money, they look for opportunities to give back to communities, and they don’t need press conferences to announce these deeds.

It is no wonder that when these people fail, they easily get the support they need to start all over again. Like Manny, they still have people’s unwavering loyalty, win or lose. Indeed, it is crucial to have people beside you who will lift you up when you get shot down. 

In John Maxwell’s Five Stages of Leadership, he demonstrates that successful people influence best because of what they represent, and because of what they have personally done for others.

At work, being the fastest worker, the most creative powerpoint slide maker, or the most strategic planner are well rewarded only if you work alone. But these are not enough to succeed if teamwork is at play (and who works alone these days anyway?).

This is the same reason why I get so frustrated whenever I see brilliant managers or students who do so well when given a solo task, but fail painfully when they’re asked to work with a team. They refuse to trust people with work, and they refuse to share what they know because getting ahead of the race is their main priority. (READ: The 4 things you should stop doing at work)

In life, finding a higher purpose that involves “others” may just be the most fulfilling task to achieve when you have conquered all the mountains available. It matters to show to your friends and colleagues that while you have a personal race to fulfill, you also got their back.

3. Fight the fight that you promised

The world voted for Manny because he fought the sport the way we expect it to be fought. After waiting for 5 years, we were promised a good fight and while it’s wrong to say we wanted to see blood, we were disappointed that we didn’t.

Credit goes to Mayweather for his technical gracefulness in defending himself in the ring; he avoided many punches and reserved much of his strength until the end.

He was also a very patient fighter who refused to win by volume of punches, but by the quality of it. He fought smarter, and he deserves the victory for this strategy.  

But this isn’t the boxing that the people were waiting for. “Boxing is dead!” was an outcry on social media by many fans who were expecting a slugfest between the two legendary fighters. The world cheered for Manny because while both athletes played fair and square, Manny gave the fight that he promised. He walked the talk.

Successful people are those who fulfill their word and hold on to what they commit to the public. They commit to a specific goal, and work hard on it not for days, not for weeks, but years and years until they finally accomplish it.

They pick themselves up no matter how many times they fall down. They simply have grit. Manny chased Mayweather to fight even if all the conditions were stacked against him because he sincerely wanted to prove himself as the best. He also wanted to prove that he can both give a good show and emerge victorious at the same time. And when he lost, he showed his usual sportsmanship of sincerely congratulating his opponent but firm enough to share his side of the story (of course the man has the right to believe he won!).

On a final note 

This is why we all love Manny, no matter how many times he will lose his fights. We all like him for what he has done, and what he continues to represents. 

At work or in life, we all wish we can leave a legacy as great as Manny Pacquiao did. Not because we’re simply good at what we do, but because the most fulfilling thing to do is to consciously share what we’re good at. – Rappler.com

Jonathan Yabut is the winner of the hit reality business TV show The Apprentice Asia and was popularly known in the show for his people skills, leadership and passionate speeches in the “boardroom.” He is currently based in Kuala Lumpur as the chief of staff of AirAsia reporting to Malaysian business mogul Tony Fernandes. Apart from work, he engages in motivational talks about youth, leadership, and entrepreneurship across Southeast Asia and is represented by the London Speaker Bureau. He recently launched his book about his journey to becoming the first Asian Apprentice, From Grit to Great. Visit his website at jonathanyabut.com

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