George2One of my friends is going through a hard time, and recently, he asked me this question: “Do you think now is a good time for a change?” The question made me smile because usually, if you’re asking yourself that question, you already know the answer. The answer is yes: It is probably a great time to make a change.

Change can be emotional, and change can be scary. For the lucky ones, change can be a mere formality, but for most of us, change is practically thrust upon us. No matter how it’s presented, we still do all we can to avoid it. Change is inevitable, and often life changing, but before you go running to hide under the covers, I want to remind you of the curious case of “Big George” Foreman.

I’m sure you’ve heard of him, but here’s a little background to catch you up:

  • George Foreman won a gold medal as a heavyweight boxer in the 1968 Olympics.
  • He parlayed that into a professional career that spanned from 1969 – 1974. Then he decided to retire from boxing.
  • A year later, he unretired and made his first comeback, and he continued his professional career until 1977. Once again, he decided to retire from boxing.
  • After ten years away from the ring, on the verge of bankruptcy, he made another comeback. He left retirement and continued his professional boxing career that spanned from 1987 – 1997. In 1997, he decided to retire from boxing once again, and this time it was for good. He was 48 years old.

That final fight was a good one; it was against a fighter named Shannon Briggs. George Foreman lost the fight, but in a close, majority decision. I happened to have been watching that night, and like many others who saw the fight, I thought he had won. When he was interviewed after the decision was announced, he was gracious to his opponent, and although encouraged to do so, he offered no excuses or complaints. Instead, he finished the interview with the most unusual statement I have ever heard. The final exchange, with HBO ring announcer Larry Merchant, went something like this:

Larry Merchant: “George, it looked like you won that fight on all our cards. I’m sure you must be disappointed. What do you have to say?”

Big George: “I’m not sure if you know this, Larry, but that young man over there lost his mother the other day. Who knows, maybe he won; as a matter of fact, I think he did win. As for me, I have only one thing to say: The George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine. It’s not just good for burgers and steaks; it’s great for chicken and chops too. Get yourself one!”

Larry Merchant looked shocked and confused, but George knew just what he was doing. He was 48 years old, and he was embracing a change that was unavoidable. He was coping with change, he was transitioning to his next career, and he was evolving.

Whose profession, or life for that matter, doesn’t involve change? We can bury our heads in the sand, or we can look change straight in the eye and aggressively move forward. Change doesn’t really care which choice you make, because it’s coming whether you like it or not. I can still remember hearing, as a 21-year old new-hire at New York Life that we were getting something called “personal computers.” Most agents adapted, while some agents refused. I’m sure you can guess how that turned out.

George“Big George” Foreman adapted, and it should be noted that, in a punishing boxing career that spanned over 30 years, he earned an estimated 25 million dollars. When it came to the selling of his grill, the numbers were a bit different: Between his cash, stock options, the use of his name in perpetuity, and his TV appearances, it’s estimated that Big George Foreman has made close to 250 million dollars selling his grill.

I’m not suggesting that change is easy, nor am I suggesting that change is always welcome. Mark Twain once said:

The only person who likes change is a wet baby.

No matter how we respond, change is inescapable, and sometimes, but not always, for the better. I can’t even begin to count how many people I have known who fought change at ever turn. Those people eventually made significant changes, and they also wound up saying, “I just wish I had done it sooner.” Maybe it’s time you welcome change into your life. Who knows, maybe that drumbeat of change you hear in the distance is opportunity knocking…

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  1. Ann Marie Kelly says:

    I agree with your ideas on change. I am planning to run my own little enterprise next year. The problem for me is I wanted change so much I looked too hard for it. In the end I found my solution much closer to my own doorstep than I imagined. Sometimes the best and easiest solutions are very close but yet so far because we are just missing that one final piece of the jigsaw.

    • Rob Jolles says:

      Funny how that happens. When asked about career moves my response is frequently, “Usually, you don’t find your career; your career finds you.” Thanks for posting, and sharing your story. All the best, and don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you in any way.

  2. Gary Johnson says:

    Thanks Rob. He was the most enigmatic boxer and one of the nicest guys of our time. “I named all my sons George Edward Foreman so they would always have something in common”

  3. Good post, Rob. Now I’ll have the following song in my head all weekend!

    “Change changing places
    Root yourself to the ground
    Capitalize on this good fortune
    One word can bring you round

    From the Yes song “Changes”

  4. Melissa McGinn says:

    Talk about timing! I always appreciate your words but this is exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. Amidst change, I need to shove fear aside. Behind it stands opportunity.

    Best regards

    • Well that made my day! And soon you’ll be chanting the mantra of so many would find the courage you have found to shove fear aside: “My only regret is that I should have done it sooner.” Good-luck with those changes Melissa. You’ve already accomplished the hard part. Now just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks for posting!

  5. Love it.. And you know that resiliency is my area of intense interest. Think you’ll like what Churchill had to say about it: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Winston Churchill Now let’s go grill some burgers :)

  6. What a great quote. I don’t put many up in the office, but I think that one is going on the wall. Remember, “It’s not just good for burgers and steaks; it’s great for chicken and chops too!” I always love seeing your posts Eileen.

  7. Bruce Caswell says:

    Another great story – thank you.
    If I start to think ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’, I’m going to replace it with ‘out of the frying pan, into the lean, mean, grilling machine’.

  8. Rob,
    Another terrific, motivational piece from the Jolles blogosphere. Loved your piece, as usual. Brought to mind Henry F’s counsel that, ” whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. Thank you!!

  9. Thanks for the great story and inspiration! I like the perspective “… change is inescapable, and sometimes, but not always, for the better.” The blog helps us change our thoughts to a more positive , more flexible level when dealing with a closed door.

  10. This was a great post and the excellent examples and stories really helped to make your change analysis personal and relevant to me. Although we all have to deal with change, I want to point out that we do so at our own pace. Some people embrace change right away while others may need more time to process what has happened before fully accepting change. Depending on the circumstances and individual coping abilities, some people may also need varying amounts of time to grieve a loss before moving on.

  11. Ken Davis says:

    If memory serves, Foreman received his first huge check from the Foreman Grill in his hotel suite before the fight, and had to be talked into following through with the fight because he wanted to retire on the spot. Seems like the sales exploded after he took a bite out of a cheeseburger while promoting the grill on QVC.

  12. As usual, Rob, terrific job….!! You are a ….”Spellbinder”… I should know…I’ve had to sit next to you – innumerable times – while you ‘carried forth’…as a guest on my “Communicating Today” T.V. show…and entertained our viewers…with your great ‘Story-telling’..talent….!!! No wonder you’ve written so many successful books – and conducted hundreds of great seminars….!!

    The biggest ‘change’..I’ve had to endure in my life…was…when I lost my beloved Sweetheart – ‘Deedee’ -2 years ago…after 59 1/2 years of wedded ‘bliss’….and – by the grace of God….am only now…beginning to ‘move on’ – with the rest of my life….thanks to so many you!

    John M.

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