Nobody Fights for 12 Rounds

‘Nobody fights for 12 rounds; some rounds you just survive,’ is a boxing analogy shared with me by my boss. We were discussing the handling of a key account and the pace at which we were meeting their expectations, as well as the give and take of the business relationship.

When I was growing up boxing was on television more so than today and I recall that late in a fight, boxers would turn up the heat and go for a knockout, especially when they perceived they were close or behind on the score cards. This was unlike some of the rounds earlier in the fight, which had more clutching and grabbing, a slower pace. Then of course there are the Rocky movies, where he is trapped in a corner taking punches left and right, allowing his opponent to tire, waiting for the bell to ring.

Boxing has an element of going slow to go fast. There’s no rush to jump around with the hope of landing a knockout punch. A 3-minute round allows time to figure things out, move around, and get comfortable. I was once told that boxing is not a race, it was more like a chess match. In fact, former world heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis believes chess helped him in the boxing ring, “When someone calls you a name, you want to punch them out… but chess teaches you to think through those next moves.”

Every time a boxer uses energy, it’s for a meaningful purpose like landing a direct blow, counterpunching, or defending. Throwing punches simply for the sake of doing something, isn’t wise. Boxers look to save energy, sometimes resting between explosive movements. Boxers move with a grace and elegance, as it does no good to carry tension all the time. Think about the greatest boxer of all-time, Muhammad Ali, and his famous “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” statement before he took the title from Sonny Liston.

We will accomplish more by working intensely for short periods and then refueling as opposed to working continuously over a long period of time. No one can operate continuously at peak levels for an extended time. Long periods of work or exertion will inevitably take its toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. This can lead to more mistakes, declining levels of engagement, increasing levels of distraction and dissatisfaction, and even rising medical costs. A dull saw is considered a safety hazard with an increased risk for injury.

A ‘rest’ is a musical notation sign that indicates the absence of a sound. Oddly enough there is no music during rests, but there is no making of music without a rest. They serve more purpose than just separating the notes. Without rests the music is overwhelming, clumsy, and the musicians, whether they are singing or playing an instrument, quickly become tired and out of breath. Music needs rest.

Similarly, managing large strategic accounts is a different sales process. It requires relationship building and strong engagement at the right time. A sales rep driving a pipeline of sales opportunities is constantly looking for the next order or moving the opportunity to its next stage in the process. The constant sales pitches, soft closes, negotiations, etc. is akin to a constant drone of music and throwing punches non-stop.

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as a philosopher and prominent social thinker. He wrote a short essay that captures the essence of this blog, “There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it. In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by “rests,” and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the rest? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between. Not without design does God write the music of our lives. But be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the “rests.” They are not to be slurred over nor to be omitted, nor to destroy the melody, nor to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear.”

Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser wrote “In 1933 Gerhard Von Rad aptly observed that “Among the many benefits of redemption offered to man by Holy Scripture, that of ‘rest’ has been almost overlooked in biblical theology….”

Most of us are familiar with the story in Mark 4:35-40 of Jesus calming the seas. But there is another perspective in that Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. This scene is coming on the heels of the Sermon on the Mount and there was work still to be done, people to be healed, and lessons to be taught. But He gets in the boat and falls asleep. Jesus knows that He needs to stop and rest.

In Chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had sent out the 12 disciples, two by two, to go and preach, heal, and cast out demons. Then, we read that the group has returned, and they were tired. It states: “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” When that attempt to rest results in the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus again recognizes their total exhaustion and sends them off ahead.

God established the Sabbath rest with our good in mind. By resting on the seventh day, God built rest into the natural rhythm of life, and He sanctified it. Sabbath rest is not just a wise saying; it is a commandment of God and an expression of His mercy. Sabbath rest reminds us we are needy. Our bodies need rest and our hearts need refocusing. We can’t fight for 12 rounds, so let’s not be dismayed at the “rests” in the music of our life.

Scroll to Top