Claude, head machine tender for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 4B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"In January of 1979, I competed in a boxing tournament in Kingston as a member of the University of Ottawa Boxing Team. As I was preparing for the match, participating in practice matches with my sparring partner, my coach told me to stay low, don't attack, and no matter what, be sure to protect myself. Of course when I went into the ring, I didn't listen to the coach. I forgot his words of caution and tried to attack my opponent. The first thing I knew, I got hit in the face—the hardest punch I've ever felt. I stepped back and thought to myself, 'There's something wrong here. This guy is fast!' I mean, usually you will see a punch coming but you won't be able to stop it. With this guy, I didn't even see it coming. 'This one is going to hurt,' was my next thought.
In spite of the fact that I was obviously out-classed, there was no way I was going down without a fight. I picked up my courage with both hands and of course, this time, put them in front of my face with my elbow pulled in to protect my solar plexus. I kept attacking and looking for holes where I could get in a punch or two. Needless to say, I lost that fight. After the tenth round and the obvious decision of the judge, my coach told me I had just fought the Ontario Province champ. I ended up in third place of that tournament. I didn't keep the medallion from that fight because I came in third place. What I did keep was the memory of the moment after our match, when the Ontario champ came over to me in front of my coach, and praised me on my good fight. He told me, 'You have a lot of potential.'
The lesson I learned from this experience is to listen to my coaches. Even when it seems impossible, I have to persevere, and
from consistent perseverance, I will be rewarded. I also learned the extraordinary power of well-timed praise from a person I respect.
The action I call you to take is don't listen to anyone who tells you it's impossible to win. I want you to persist even when the odds of your success are overwhelmingly against you. And, when you're the winner, find opportunity to give praise for the efforts of those who are trying hard. “The benefit you will gain is the satisfaction of knowing that you gave it all you've got. Even if you don't reach your goal, you will feel satisfied knowing you have given it all your best."