Career Lessons Inspired By “The Fighter”

Between knockouts, greed, and drugs, the movie "The Fighter" offers several important career takeaways.


Nominated for six Golden Globe awards and likely to get several Oscars nods later this week, The Fighter is a brisk-paced movie about Micky Ward, the one-time boxing champion.

Actor Mark Wahlberg plays Ward in the lead role; Christian Bale steals the show as the boxer's colorful brother Dickie.

Between knockouts, greed, and drugs, The Fighter offers several important career lessons:

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Choose a life partner who supports your career choices.

Micky Ward's wife in the movie is portrayed as a spouse who supports her husband's career choice, despite its endemic risks (permanent injury, sporadic payday, etc.).

It's hard to stay positive, productive, and proactive through every leg of a career journey. Having a partner who believes in you and pushes you to improve can actually help you succeed. We could all use a cheerleader, and if you’re lucky, your spouse will take on that role.

Listen to advice, but make your own decisions.

There’s no shortage of career advice blogs, job counselors, and other people who are willing to share their opinions on how to achieve career success. Family members are usually the first people we turn to for career advice—after all, who knows us better? And soliciting feedback on work situations from a third party is critical to career success.

But I can’t think of a more individual journey than climbing up the corporate ladder. Only you know what you want out of work. Seek opinions, but filter them, and know that it’s ultimately your call, your life. Micky was under the tutelage of his mother and brother for far too long. It wasn’t until he stood up for himself, in part because of a supportive spouse, that his career really took off.

Find the strategy that makes you successful.

After losing four consecutive fights in 1990, Micky Ward took a hiatus from boxing. Determined to be more than a stepping stone for opponents, he had to reinvent his boxing style. After undergoing hand surgery, Micky went back to the drawing board and adjusted his boxing style, which led to a comeback that included nine straight victories.

Albert Einstein knew what he was talking about when he said, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” A great employee is willing to adapt. An excellent employee knows when to adapt. (You might also check out Career advice from Shawshank Prison.)

Everyone deserves a second chance.

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Checking preconceived notions at the door is never an easy task, but one worth undertaking at the office. You are not better than the person who works next to you. You have both overcome obstacles and made mistakes. Give your colleague the benefit of the doubt.

When Micky Ward’s half brother Dickie Eklund is released from prison as a rehabilitated man, some folks in Micky’s circle believe his brother will fall back into bad habits and throw the boxer off track. During a pivotal scene in the movie, Dickie addresses Mick’s wife Charlene and reminds her that her life hasn’t been perfect and everyone deserves another opportunity. If someone at work made a mistake and has worked hard to correct it, they are worthy of a second chance.

Look forward, even if it means leaving success behind.

Your career and your life hang on more than one pivotal moment, whether it was a win, lose, or draw. In the movie, Dickie defines himself by the fact that he knocked down boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard (though it was actually a slip). He allowed himself to be defined by this moment.

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At work, you want to build a legacy of success. That means never loitering too far in the past, and never thinking too far in the future. Be present.

It’s also important to show your employer and colleagues that you’re more than a one-trick pony. Never allow yourself to be defined by one event. Likewise, you should never be too attached to a work clique. You’re an individual and should be judged on your own merit.

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.


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