Roll with the Punches
A true-to-life tale, as told by Thirumur David Kiran
I marched down the street in a blistering rage, my anger about as dark and stormy as the winter evening sky.
I had just encountered a major setback in business and it seemed that it would cost nearly all my company’s profit for the quarter—not to mention the respect of my colleagues and family.
It was not the first time either. It seemed like every time I set out to try something new, I was getting beaten back. My business career as an entrepreneur seemed like a constant case of “two steps forward and one step back”—except those numbers seemed to be reversed more often than not. Sometimes it seemed I was taking three or four steps back. This was just another setback on that long and dreary road towards success, or so the success books and manuals would have said. At this point, however, I honestly doubted that the road was leading anywhere.
“It’s not fair!” I complained aloud. To whom my complaint was directed to, I knew not. I simply felt the need to vent. “Why this failure?! This is the end of me! I’m done! I can’t go on! I can’t take another step! I’m ruined!”
As these angry and despondent thoughts were running through my head and spilling out my lips, I happened across a building with a flashing neon sign outside, advertising a forthcoming event. Seeking distraction from my troubles and a shelter from the wintry blasts that were beginning to bite at my bones, I stepped inside.
The room was a dimly-lit one. It was an old boxing gym that appeared to have been home to many local champions of the years gone by. The gym, while small, was filled to max capacity with the local populace who had come in anticipation of the event.
The boxing ring soon came into view: the hardened floor that had seen one too many man collapse on it in exhaustion, the ringside scrubs where many a coach had either raised his arms in triumph or wrung them in shame, the ropes that many a fighter had leaned on for strength before his final burst to victory or had been pushed on to moments before his defeat.
A fight was about to begin and the gathering crowd was chattering with anticipation. Today was the big one, they said. You could almost feel the tension in the air as the crowd thronged around the ring, each hoping to get a glimpse of this historic neighborhood rivalry and at who would be the hero of it all. I felt myself being caught up in the anticipation as my eyes scanned the arena, eagerly looking for the two brave men who would soon grace the floor.
To my left in the scrubs I saw the first fighter. I will call him “Bill”. He was huge! Never before had I seen a man so worthy of praise. He looked like the embodiment of the Greek mythological god Hercules in the flesh! He stood there, tall and strong; impassive to all. It seemed that there was nothing that could cause him to fear. I mentally marked him off as the winner in my mind.
To my right, I caught a glimpse of the opponent—”Bob”. He was slightly smaller in build and in demeanor. From the looks of it, he didn’t stand a fair chance against this rock of a man that he was fated to meet. His opponent saw it and gloated in the fact, sending taunts to the man whose confidence seemed to be stripped with each verbal barb thrown in his direction.
Beside “Bob” sat his coach, an old, wizened man yet with a keen eye and sense of sharpness surrounding him. He had definitely coached many a champion to victory. He was whispering his last pep talk to his man.
“Coach,” “Bob” said in a trembling voice, “I’m scared stiff. What am I going to do out there? I’m going to get whaled!”
“Son,” the Coach began, “Just remember this: No matter what comes, no matter what that man does, no matter how hard the blows land or how numerous, roll with the punches. That is the secret, son. Take them on you like a man, roll with them and then strike back with all you’ve got in you. No matter how hard you are struck, roll with it and get up to strike again! That is what makes a champion!”
“Bob” rose with a confidence that he did not earlier possess. He strapped on his gloves and jumped into the ring with the words of his coach still ringing in his ears: “Roll with the punches.” His opponent swaggered over to him, taunting as he went. Yet nothing could undo “Bob’s” confidence.
The bell rang and the match began. “Bill” attacked first, his massive arms swaying like great oak trees. His blows came fast and hard down upon “Bob”. Yet, with each blow, “Bob”, staying true to his coach’s word, rolled with the blows and struck back. His coach was on the side, cheering him and goading him on.
Round one ended with “Bob” receiving a particularly bad patch of punishment from “Bill”, who jeered him all the way to his corner. “Bob” sat down with a sigh. “I suppose that he won that round.”
“Yes, he did,” his coach said. “But you’re going to win the fight. It may seem like you went a few steps backward, but who said you were going to win the fight in one round? It might take some time, but you will win if you don’t give up. Just keep rolling with those punches. You can do it!”
The bell sounded and “Bob” jumped back to his feet and walked back into the ring to receive another barrage of punishment from “Bill”. And he did so again for the third round, and the fourth, and the fifth. It became routine for him: get up, get hit, roll with the punch, hit back.
However, with each round, something was happening. The blows of his opponent were getting slower and softer while his were becoming more commanding.
There! “Bill” took a hard one from “Bob”. He stumbled back, momentarily stunned. Invigorated, “Bob” launched forward with a vengeance, landing a left and right again and again! His opponent tried to strike back but “Bob” just rolled with it and struck again. “Bill” hit the floor! Unbelievable! “Bob” had won it!
With a smile of joy on his face, he jumped triumphantly out of the ring and into his coach’s arms. His coach hugged him and whispered in his ear, “My son, I knew you could!” Tears streamed down the winner’s face as he embraced his coach with a triumphant smile.
As I walked away from the joyous celebration, I too had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t seem to get the Coach’s words out of my mind: “Roll with the punches.” Suddenly everything made perfect sense. That was what I was lacking. That was what I needed to help me onwards in life.
“Roll with the punches!” No matter what comes, no matter what life does to you, no matter how hard the blows of failure and defeat land or how many times or for how long, roll with the punches. That is the secret to success! Take it on you like a man, roll with them and then strike back with all you’ve got in you! No matter how hard you are struck, roll with it and get up to do your best and strike again! That is what makes a champion!