Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What can we learn from MMA and elite fighters?

I have a thing for cage fighting and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) where the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) come alive.  I've had a thing for it ever since I came across cage fighting over twenty years ago, when it came out on late night T.V.  I knew I had fallen hard for the sport because it was important enough for me to watch the entire show while standing a foot a way from my T.V. with the volume down as low as it could go, so not to disturb my parents.  Yet, loud enough to hear the names of the moves and fighters.  I believe my appreciation of MMA fighting began when I watched Sunday karate movies with sub titles and voice overs, in addition to, enjoying  Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal movies.  
I have a strong appreciation for the true art that it is.  I respect the discipline and the heart that it takes to shut out everything that does not support a fighter's desire to be their very best.  The level of respect the fighters display for one another once the fight is over is heart warming. 
The fights are so much more than two guys in a cage, duking it out, spit flying, sweaty bodies in compromising positions and blood on the mat.  I find it similar to a game of chess where it is all about the strategy combined with conditioning of the mind, body and spirit.  The desire to be the best is so strong and serious cross training appears to be the only solution.  
As a successful, professional, business developer and mentor, I look upon this sport and can't help feel that so many of us can learn a thing or two not only from the sport, but from the elite fighters.  One champion especially, George St. Pierre (GSP).  After watching the documentary, The Striking Truth, it became evident to me that the art and training model strategy  for a few elite UFC fighters, could serve on some level, as a business and wellness training model, for professionals.  Elite fighters, such as GSP train under various disciplines within MMA.  For example, Muay Thai, Kick Boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, etc.  They also train hard core cardio with sophisticated designed equipment and not so sophisticated equipment, such as, large tires and sledge hammers.  They train their bodies via swimming, running, tennis, weight lifting, gymnastics and even ballet.  They train their minds by meditating, visualizing, utilizing life coaches, nutritionists, and health counselors.  They cross train to be the best and to perform their best.  They continue to perfect their talent and skills.  They practice within these different disciplines to become more fluid and versatile.  It is through these techniques that the cream of the crop fighters, the best pound per pound athletes learn to live according to who they truly are.  They seem to be connected to their inner core thanks to mindfulness that comes from this training model.   

What would happen if an employer encouraged  their employees to become more fluid.  What would happen if a driven professional chose to become more fluid in their career or in life?  What would it look like?  My thought process brings me to endless possibilities.  After some research, I became aware that cross training models exist and have been implemented in corporations with positive results.  However, I am not talking about a traditional cross training program where employees are taught the responsibilities of various departments.  I am talking about cross training the mind, body and spirit of an employee using techniques such as mindfulness based stress reduction, visualization, meditation, mentor coaching, holistic health counselors, food and nutritional training, physical training and so on.  A training model that provides resources for a sustainable environment of optimum health for both individual and employer as a whole organism.  A sustainable plan that teaches the employees a whole new way of thinking to enhance their career experience, work/life balance options, over all physical, mental and spiritual health.  A plan that goes beyond the benefits of reducing risk of injury, enhancing teamwork, and promoting employee loyalty.  A model that helps employees get beyond their self imposed limitations and gets them to think big and free from self doubt.  

I am not endorsing that the employer foots the bill 100%.  I am not proposing anything in terms of who covers what costs, at this point.  I am a firm believer in personal responsibility and personal accountability.  I am merely thinking out loud.  What if we were to take a company’s losses, even a portion of them, that they accumulate on traditional training, discipline, absenteeism and termination procedures and apply the projected costs in the beginning of one’s employment?  Apply resources to actually teach people how to balance their work/life responsibilities, eat properly and to invest in themselves for the simple fact because they are worthy of living a healthful, connected, stress-less life.  Please do not mis-understand me.  I am not stating that it is an employer’s responsibility to provide or teach what I am discussing here.  I am asking to look at the possibilities at what a change in mindset would do.  I am guessing increased loyalty, higher retention, broader pool of high end applicants and happier employees who produce more in less time because they are fulfilled in life.

Maybe I should mention that we could look at schools as a starting block where investment in oneself should be taken seriously.   Yes, math, reading and science are all important, but so isn’t the life of an individual.  Are we doing everything in our power to properly teach ourselves how to live healthy, happy, and productive lives, where we live according to our purpose?  I am not sure we are with the amount of reports on bullying, obesity, depression, prescription and over the counter drugs that are being prescribed as the proverbial “a pill will cure all”, certainly not when the list of side effects can cause worse injuries than the reason for the Dr.‘s visit in the first place.  

Remember the sayings “we get what we pay for” and “we are what we eat?”  I see larger portions of manufactured “food” for less dollars available, such as “Pick 2 for $10.”  Last time I checked food prices are on the rise.  Has anyone given it any thought as to why the prices are so low at fastfood joints and chain restaurants?  What does this say about what we put in our bodies and what impact does it have on our over all quality of life.  This is just one example of convenience out ranking healthy choices and there are plenty of examples.   Why do we need convenience?  Simply put, because we are so disconnected, over stimulated, exhausted and are no longer taught properly how to critically think or connect with the truth of who we are.  This would all change, slowly, but surely when we embrace a training model for self enhancement, growth and optimum health.  

It has to start somewhere.  It has to start with us as an individual, for sure.  So, why not look in a less obvious place like the fighting camps that train the elite fighters of UFC, as a starting point?  The athletes work at overcoming serious life traumatic experiences many times and with the help of a powerful cross training model they over come their ego, limiting beliefs and thrive.  They are taught to believe in themselves. They are supported and pushed to leave their comfort zones.  The result?  High performance in many, if not all areas of their lives.  Not so bad for what some consider a violent sport.  In truth, it is highly technical and controlled that requires a high level of mental strength.  Again, not a bad role model for those of us who want to be the very best we can be and to allow areas of our life, including our careers to reap the benefits of a solid cross training model. 

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