Anyone who has read my blog posts over the past year will have registered my infatuation (healthy or otherwise) with a certain Irishman by the name of Conor McGregor. In my posts I have eulogised over his many laudable attributes - his unshakable mental will, his dedication to his craft, his ability to draw eyes and ears on a global level, and (most importantly) his skills inside the Octagon. His rise to stardom over the past three years has been nothing short of phenomenal. Beating every opponent put in front of him has played a part, however it has been both his accomplishments and his approach which have changed the sport of mixed martial arts forever.
Many of you will by now know that his undefeated streak came to an end this past Saturday. There are a number of reasons why he lost, but this isn't a blog about MMA so forgive me if I don't offer up any detailed analysis or context. The fact is he lost and for many people who were captivated my his meteoric rise, the world is a slightly drearier place.
In the build up to his most recent bout, I must admit to consuming almost ludicrous amounts of McGregor content online. Videos, articles, podcasts, interviews - anything with his name on it, I ate it. Driving home from my friend's house at 7:00 am on Sunday morning, it struck me that I had absolutely no desire to go on social media for the considerable future, because I knew it would be impossible to dodge the uncountable pieces of click-bait which would stick like needles in my brain.
I think I lasted about 5 hours. What I feared most was the backlash. When someone like McGregor becomes a star, there are going to be those who celebrate his success, and those who don't. For years now many of the people who dislike McGregor have been waiting for this moment, so the second he lost, the flood gates opened. Celebrating a sportsman's demise or defeat, in any field, is deplorable in my opinion, but I'm not naive enough to not expect it.
Thankfully the first piece of content which I saw was from the man himself. It was simply a few paragraphs, but the words had a monumental effect on me. I realise how silly it is for a grown man to be hurt because another man, with whom he has no connection whatsoever, lost a contest. But take a moment and think about it - I felt terrible, I truly, truly did, so imagine how he must have felt.
What has this got to do with Communications? Everything in my opinion. How we deal with failure and disappointment is paramount to our own development, both as individuals and as organisations. No one wins all the time, and even if it was possible to do so, who would want to. The most important thing to have in any walk of life is a growth mindset, not a fixed one. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
It is worth qualifying at this point that many other seemingly unbeatable stars within the UFC have been beaten recently. Ronda Rousey, the former women's bantamweight champion, lost in spectacular fashion a matter of months ago. Jose Aldo, the only featherweight champion the UFC had known, lost in a record-breaking 13 seconds to McGregor in December 2015. What is interesting about this scenario is the way McGregor has dealt with his own defeat in comparison. Both Aldo and Rousey disappeared instantly the moment they lost. No interviews, no press conferences, nothing. We didn't hear hide nor hair of either former champion until many months later once they were back on their feet and had time to digest what had happened.
Conor McGregor, however, WAS there at the press conference. He answered every question, and continued to give interviews and fulfill his media obligations. He spoke eloquently about what happened, what went wrong, what he was going to fix and all the while graciously congratulating his opponent. He then posted this...
The sign of a true champion is consistent effort in the face of success or failure. That is something we can all respect and look to implement in our own lives, no matter what we do.