Do You Shadow Box?

Accountability Contribution



Key Point: Shadow boxing is great exercise for both individuals and organizations. I was with a group of leaders discussing the impact of market disruption, when Dr. Luke Williams, author of the book Disrupt, and professor at NYU, exclaimed: “You’ve got to shadow box with intention… Feel what it’s like to try and knock yourself out!” Huh? So we talked more about it and the essence of our conversation was that great organizations (and I believe great individuals) work on continuous reinvention through the process of purposeful “shadow boxing.” Let’s examine this idea further. 

As you likely know, shadow boxing is when a boxer or fighter moves around throwing punches at the air. It’s a popular exercise to sharpen fighting techniques, improve conditioning, and mentally prepare for a fight. The psychology behind shadow boxing is to strengthen one’s advantages and visualize the sweetness of victory through rich imagery.  

There is also a thoughtful perspective about shadow boxing from an individual or personal perspective. The exceptional spiritualist, Richard Rohr, has the following view:

“One never gets to the second half of life without major shadow boxing. The important thing is to learn from your shadow side. Some call this pattern the discovery of the ‘golden shadow’ because it carries so much enlightenment for the soul. The general pattern is that heroes learn and grow from encountering their shadow, whereas villains never do. Invariably, the movies and novels that are most memorable show real ‘character development’ and growing through shadow work. This inspires us all because it calls us all. As Carl Jung put it so well, ‘Where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.’” This was adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

The likelihood of being clocked by a sucker punch, (like when at a Donald Trump rally), is high when organizations and individuals become complacent and incremental; comfortably stewing in self proclaimed victory. This is why organizations and individuals need to shadow box. Why not continuously practice strengthening advantages and visualizing victory?

Character Moves:

  1. Regularly and with specific intentionally (not just annually!!), discover what’s in your organization’s and personal shadow. “Shadow box” and pan for gold by finding the places where there is a pattern of stumbling or falling. Use the learning for institutional and character development. Continuously reimagine, reinvent, and disrupt.

Shadow Boxing in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: PHEW! This concept is a fight I can get behind! I was worried it would encourage actual “shadow boxing” in a normal gym, which in my experience is about the most attention starved, space consuming, “look at this maniac” activity that I’ve observed. There are boxing gyms/classes for a reason if you really need to throw haymakers at the air. Just one Millennial’s opinion, of course.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis