ESTEEM Stories: Bengal Bouts

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

James Hodgens participates in Bengal Bouts

I always enjoy the reaction I get when someone learns that I box competitively; it’s usually a mix of ‘Wow, that’s really cool’ and ‘Are you crazy?’ I imagine Mark Zuckerberg got a similar response when he first shared his plan to drop out of Harvard University to launch a social media website.

During my seven months as a student in the ESTEEM Program, I repeatedly find myself relying on lessons I learned in the boxing ring. I doubt many typically think entrepreneurs and boxers share a similar skillset – it’s true that Zuckerberg probably has very little in common with another inspiration of mine, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” Mike Tyson. However, they (along with other great entrepreneurs and boxers) share an important quality that is best described in a speech by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The 2015 ESTEEM class consists of an impressive group of students from a diverse range of backgrounds. We have each devoted countless hours this year to different ventures and have aspirations to change the world. Some will launch companies, one of us might even develop the next Facebook, but odds are, there will be some failed attempts along the way. After all, most entrepreneurs try many times before launching a successful company. The truly great ones learn from each failure and use the experience to better position themselves in their next endeavor.

Another commonality between my experience as a member of the Notre Dame Boxing Club and a student in the ESTEEM Program is the importance of having people in your corner. Just as no boxer has achieved success without coaches and training partners, all successful entrepreneurs benefited from partners, investors, mentors, friends and family along their journey. The ESTEEM Class is fortunate to have access to a tremendous network that is truly vested in our futures. The ESTEEM faculty, professors, thesis mentors, and classmates have all contributed to our successes, and we will continue to rely on their support after graduation.

Finally, my boxing training has helped prepare me for the level of commitment required to be an entrepreneur. Boxing demands countless hours in the gym, which results in sacrifices and a few bruises along the way. Similarly, the field that our class is pursuing – entrepreneurship in engineering, technology, and the life sciences – require relentless commitment and tireless determination. You have to work hard, make sacrifices, go outside your comfort zone, and continue to develop your skills throughout your career. These things are challenging and would be enough to keep some from ever trying. However, great entrepreneurs have a clear definition of their goals, and keep them in mind when things get tough.

One of the great things about entrepreneurship is that there are no set prerequisites for success; great entrepreneurs come from diverse backgrounds and have different passions. For me, one of those passions happens to be boxing, and fortunately, some of the skills that I have acquired through the sport will help me in my chosen field. When we graduate in two months, each member of the ESTEEM class will combine what we have learned from our instructors, mentors, advisors, and classmates with our unique backgrounds and individual skillsets to position ourselves for great success in the arena of entrepreneurship.