While I was watching BattleBots with my 9-year-old son, he learned a valuable life lesson when the Overhaul team captain, Adam Bercu, refused to shake hands with Lock-Jaw driver Donald Hutson after a perceived illegal hit during a battle. “Why did he not shake hands?” my boy asked. Then I had to explain what sportsmanship was and why it mattered.
It was a teachable moment. And it made me realize that the combat arena holds a few more life lessons. Like these:
1. Always have a way to flip yourself back over
It amazes me that people compete in robot battles with bots that lose the match the minute they’re flipped on their backs. In the arena, as in life, getting inverted is likely. You should always have a way to flip yourself back over, as it were. Alternatively, you design a bot (or a life) that works even when upside-down.
2. Carry spare parts, or know how to make them
On the battlefield of life, you will lose pieces as you go. Weapons, wheels, blades, friends, money, jobs, you name it. If you have acquired it, be prepared to lose it. And know how to replace it.
3. Shake hands when the match is over
Outside of the ring, we are all fighting our own epic battles. Just because you have an opponent, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. Once the buzzer sounds, shake hands. You may meet again outside the ring, and that time you may want him as a friend.
Every fight is different. So you cannot stay the same. Study your opponent before every fight, and learn the new skills you’ll need to compete, or build a new weapon to counter their special attack. Complacency is suicide.
5. An unbalanced weapon can harm you more than your opponent
In the BattleBots semi-finals, Tombstone rips into Bronco, and the force of the impact unbalances its spinner weapon, causing more damage to Tombstone itself than its opponent.
We see this in the devastating spinning-weapon bots. They use rotational inertia to rip into opponents, and when they connect, they’re effective. But gyroscopic effects can easily make these bots uncontrollable, and worse, if the weapon is damaged, the unbalanced spinning forces can tear a robot apart. In other words: Flailing at life can be effective in the short term, but it’s a very dangerous tactic.
6. Don’t lose sight of the world while focusing on an opponent
The arena itself can turn against you. You can get smashed by a hammer, thrown into screws, or just get your wedge stuck on uneven ground. The world changes. If you over-focus on an opponent, you may find yourself done in by a changing environment. This applies especially in business, but also in love, in politics, and in work.