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January 31, 2023

Everybody You Fight Is Not Your Enemy

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I heard a really profound quote from former boxing champion Mike Tyson. The core theme of it is that we must not overgeneralize or assume anything. In fact, it’s often incorrect and biased when we try to draw conclusions from a narrow set of conclusions. The quote has two sides of it, equally profound, and I’ll dive into each independently. The quote is “Everybody you fight is not your enemy and everyone that helps you is not your friend.”

First, “everybody you fight is not your enemy”. Tyson understands this better than anyone as he built a life squaring off with someone in a boxing ring. The suggestion in this quote is that there’s way more to it than meets the eye. 

From one angle, someone you’re fighting with might be your competition. While they’re a thorn in your side making it harder for you to reach your goals, they’re presence is also a catalyst to your performance. No one likes losing and competition forces people to be better. So it’s not fair to say that competition, or who you’re fighting with, is an enemy. They play a specific role in your development that cannot be neglected.

And similarly, when you have a disagreement with a coworker, a family member, a friend, or whoever, that doesn't automatically qualify them as an enemy. When you put the emotions aside and focus on the core outcome you both want, it’s probably very similar. Fighting coworkers want to do what’s right for the company while feeling fairly valued themselves. Family members want to maintain a strong bond despite conflict. Again, just because you’re fighting with someone does not make them an enemy.

Now the second half, which is really juicy - “everyone that helps you is not your friend”. Just because it appears as though they’re doing something for you in the short-term, that doesn’t reflect their intentions in the long-term. People can be deceptive, selfish, and backstabbing. Often times the people who take advantage of you must first earn your trust. I’m not trying to be cynical but I do want to represent the reality of it, which is why you need to use more discernment to understand people’s intentions before drawing any conclusions about their behaviors.

And that’s really the summary. Give people benefit of the doubt and be collaborative and optimistic, but with a healthy dose of reflecting on their motivation. Good or bad, right or wrong. “Everybody you fight is not your enemy and everyone that helps you is not your friend.”

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