My wife Susie and I just watched Russell Crowe’s stellar performance in the 2005 movie Cinderella Man. Ron Howard’s movie ostensibly relates the rise of boxer James J. Braddock to world heavyweight champion in 1935. But it’s really a modern parable about a man who knows and lives by his Big Why.
Braddock, who had tasted success in the late 1920’s, could not even get enough work as a longshoreman to pay his bills during the Great Depression. In desperation, his wife Mae farms out their three young children to relatives who can provide them with heat and food. Outraged by her action, Braddock swallows his pride and signs up for welfare. He takes the subway from the slums of New Jersey into New York City to panhandle among the boxing promoters in New York City, the few who had money. He garners enough funds to return to New Jersey, get the heat turned back on and reunite their brood.
Why? Braddock had promised his oldest son that he would never allow his children to be scattered among relatives.
Listen for more of Braddock’s Big Why in this media interview on the eve of his title fight with Max Baer: http://cli.ps/34iG6
What is Braddock’s Big Why? It is his wife and his children. He fought for—milk—for the means to keep his family and his community together.
Like all great Big Whys, Braddock’s sent powerful reverberations into the lives of his community and his followers.
On the evening of his title bout, his parish gathered to listen to the radio broadcast and cheer him on together. Braddock gave hope to his parish and to millions more. His actions gave them permission to use FDR’s New Deal program. They believed, like Braddock, that they could lean on the government for while and get back on their feet. His Big Why gave them hope.
Business owners I talk with often feel more like Braddock the boxer and Braddock the longshoreman rather than Braddock the family man, calm and collected before his title fight.
Many business owners feel they are constantly bobbing and weaving in the ring, hoping to land the KO punch, getting that next client or the right hire or funding to take their business to the next level.
The difference? Braddock knew he was fighting for milk.
What are you fighting for? And who’s in your ring?
My thanks go to Chuck Blakeman for introducing me to his formulation of the Big Why:
Like boxers, business owners can focus so much on business so that they lose sight of their Big Why. There are actually different “brain centers” that think about business matters vs. people and relationships.
To build on last week’s Toolkit on your ideal significance portfolio, here is a simple exercise to help you get in touch with your most significant Big Why:
- Go to a place or room in your home that you associate with your greatest joy or moments when you are in the “flow.”
- Sit quietly, close your eyes and take slow steady breaths.
- Let your mind go to the people and situations that bring that smile to your face and your body.
- Journal about what came to mind.
- Connect that discovery to your business.