BJJ World Champion
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is now estimated to have more practitioners than Judo across the world. It’s a form of joint attack and choke based martial art. It relies on submissions rather than punches or kicks. It was elevated to fame during the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, now a multi-billion-dollar business, when a BJJ practitioner called Royce Gracie weighing in at only 180lbs beat much stronger and larger opponents.
It’s a tough sport but one man who stands out from the crowd is 6 times World BJJ Champion Andre Galvao. We spent some time with him over lunch to see what business leaders can learn from sporting champions like him.
It was very interesting to listen to his views and one thing that became clear was that it was how he has dealt with failure that has distinguished him.
Many of us hear about the successes of well-known business people, but many of these people have gone through multiple failures. Richard Branson for example, dropped out of school to start a magazine called Student. It didn’t work out so he started a record mail order business that went on to become Virgin Records. Richard Branson has since started over 100 businesses. Most have done well but at least 15 have failed. Before launching Microsoft, Bill Gates was a Harvard University dropout and co-owner of a failed business called Traf-O-Data. Driven by his passion for computer programming, Gates built what would become the world’s largest software company Microsoft. I could go on but most of the big success stories have at least one failure behind them.
When Andre lost a match, it was typically in the finals. What do you think he did the day after he lost a match? Many people might spend the days following failure in bed bingeing on Ben & Jerry’s. Not Andre, he got up and went to the gym even earlier than usual to push himself even harder in the weeks following the match. His wife stated those 7 days after losing contain very little sleep! He works even harder on the things he felt had been exposed. His philosophy is clear. Most people let their feelings determine their choices. So, if we feel down we might shut ourselves off or snap at people etc. His philosophy is to let your choices determine your feelings. Choosing to work harder after a loss made him feel positive. He was able to recognize a weakness in his game and work on it.
His positive attitude to change also marks him out. BJJ has evolved over the years and he has embraced the changes, not resisted them. That is clearly what has kept him on top and it’s a lesson for all businesses. We can never stick to the old way of doing things and expect to succeed. We must see change as part of the normal way of life. One of the reasons Andre can change is that he clearly embraces the importance of listening to people. He says he’ll listen to anybody whether they have less or more experience than him. He really seems to have no ego in this respect and this is something that businesses and the leaders of businesses can learn from. Experience doesn’t own good ideas. If anything, experience is best fuelled and most valuable when it has been able to listen and absorb input from other people.
Andre gave us a BJJ analogy at one point as to how he likes to deal with issues or challenges he faces. He said he’d rather ‘tap out facing you than turn to risk being choked’. He believes in facing up to issues and not ignoring them or letting them fester. If you have a problem with something or someone, face up to it politely and without arrogance. You may be right; you may be wrong but you will never learn if you turn away. I think a lot of businesses fail because they have issues they refuse to face. One day this catches up on them and it’s too late for them to do anything about it. Blockbuster video is a great example of this.
His training provides some insight as well. He has good people to train him, who push him. He is not afraid to try something new and get beaten. He knows he can’t use the same techniques he used to win in 2005 today because things have evolved and they don’t work. It’s through this testing process that he can refine his game and then when it matters in competitions he makes it work. We can all learn from this. We should always be prepared to try new things in small ways so that we can then incorporate them into our businesses in ways that work when rolled out. Seeing some of these trials fail is to be expected. It’s part of the process.
He clearly has a strong relationship with his wife Angelica, also a BJJ champion. Woe betide any mugger who picks on these two for they will get way more than they bargained for! Andre says he spends all his time with his wife but that it’s not a problem for him. He enjoys it. He said ‘love is a choice, not a feeling’. She appears to be his best friend, coach and confidant all in one and it clearly works for them. They are a great example and really seem a genuine team. You really feel they have each other’s back, come good or bad which is humbling to observe.
Andre is an inspiring, positive person to be around. I learnt a lot from our meeting. I think all of those in business can learn from people like him. We need to learn from failure, not let it distract us. We need to see change as a constant, and part of what we do. We can also learn to be positive and inspire others by letting our choices determine our feelings, not the other way around.