How often do you underestimate others?

Today is May 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you underestimate others?” Ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu is often given attribution for the phrase "There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.” Rest assured, navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well requires one to never underestimate an opponent. Those dreams you want to translate into reality; those goals you are striving to reach; that next job you want; that promotion you are going after at the office? Do you really think you are the only one involved; and that there are no competitors?

Navigating the chaos demands the harsh realization that enemies, both known, and unknown, are going after what you want. Notice! You cannot take your foot off the pedal until you have crossed the finish line, stood upon the medal stand, and have the award presented to you. Until all of that happens, assume someone is going to keep striving for the same thing you are.

In 1975 Charles "Chuck" Wepner, from Bayonne, New Jersey, underestimated his opponent and gained a valuable lesson when he challenged Muhammad Ali for the world's Heavyweight title. Ali was guaranteed $1.5 million and Wepner signed for $100,000. This was considerably more than Wepner had ever earned and he therefore did not need any coaxing.

Wepner spent eight weeks near the Catskill Mountains under the guidance of Al Braverman. This bout was the first time Wepner had been able to train full-time. Before the fight, a reporter asked Wepner if he thought he could survive in the ring with the champion, to which Wepner allegedly answered, "I've been a survivor my whole life...if I survived the Marines, I can survive Ali."

In the ninth round Wepner scored a knockdown, which Ali claimed had occurred because Wepner was stepping on his foot. There is a famous picture of this very moment in the fight that shows Wepner did indeed step on Ali’s foot, thus causing Ali to fall down.

Wepner went to his corner and said to his manager, "Al, start the car. We're going to the bank. We are millionaires." To which Wepner's manager replied, "You better turn around. He's getting up and he looks pissed off."

In the remaining rounds, Ali decisively out boxed Wepner and opened up cuts above both Wepner's eyes and broke his nose. Wepner was far behind on the scorecards when Ali knocked him down with 19 seconds left in the 15th round. The referee counted to seven before calling a technical knockout.

Soon thereafter Wepner retired from boxing and began abusing drugs. In 1979, Sylvester Stallone wanted to cast Wepner as a sparring partner in Rocky II, but he failed the audition due to his drug problems. In November 1985, Wepner was arrested on drug charges when he was found with four ounces of cocaine in an undercover police investigation. In 1988 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison under a plea-bargain agreement. He served 17 months in Northern State Prison, Newark, New Jersey, then spent another 20 months in New Jersey's intensive supervision program.

Sylvester Stallone watched Wepner's fight against Ali and shortly afterwards wrote the script for Rocky. In 2003, Wepner sued Sylvester Stallone, seeking payment for his use as the inspiration for Rocky and the film series. The lawsuit was settled with Stallone in 2006 for an undisclosed amount. Wepner underestimated Ali and mistakenly thought the fight was over. Ali had other plans though and went on to win.

Four-time United States Amateur champion boxer Roberto Benitez said “I’ve been focusing on what I need to do to my opponent. I’ve been doing a lot of visualization, imagining myself in the ring. I’m ready for anything. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win. I know I’ll find the strength.”

  • How often do you underestimate your opponent?

  • Why do you think you underestimate others?

  • What has happened when you underestimated others?

  • When you compete, do you stop before the competition ends?

  • Are you visualizing how to defeat your opponent or are you underestimating them?

  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to win or are you so preoccupied by underestimating them?