One of the most successful boxers ever was Marvin Hagler.
He was the undisputed Middleweight World Champion for eight years.
Four out of every five of his wins were knockouts.
He was a very aggressive fighter.
Of course, his kind of tactics weren’t to everyone’s taste.
At a boxing match, points are awarded by three judges sitting at ringside.
Hagler insisted that none of the judges at his fights should ever be British.
British judges preferred boxing, and gave points for style.
American judges preferred fighting, and gave points for aggression.
Hagler was a fighter, he wasn’t interested in boxing.
He wanted to win, whatever it took.
He would always keep his head shaved.
Then, a day or two before a fight, he’d stop shaving it.
This meant his head would grow stubble.
So when their heads came together, his would be like sandpaper.
Much more likely to cut an opponent’s face.
Which made him much more likely to win.
For Hagler the end justified the means.
Mohammed Ali is rated as the best boxer ever.
In his early career he fought the British Champion, Henry Cooper.
At the end of the fourth round Cooper knocked Ali down.
Ali staggered back to his corner, senseless.
If he’d come out when the bell rang, Cooper would have knocked him out.
But he didn’t come out, because one of his gloves was split.
That meant a new pair of gloves had to be found.
Which took about five minutes.
By which time Ali was fully recovered, and went on to win the fight.
Years later his trainer, Angelo Dundee, admitted the truth.
He made the tear in Ali’s gloves, with his thumb.
He knew the search for new gloves would give him the time to bring Ali to his senses.
Angelo Dundee was prepared to do whatever it took.
The end justified the means.
This kind of thinking doesn’t work for a lot of people.
English people in particular have a problem with it.
For instance, before you can apply for art school, you have to do a Foundation year.
Roughly fifty per cent drop out during that Foundation year.
Many of them go back to University instead.
I’ve asked some of them why they drop out.
The answers are pretty similar.
They are usually people who were successful at school.
They did well academically.
They got good marks and regular feedback from their teachers.
They academic system worked for them.
Then they get to art school and it feels like they’re left totally alone.
The teachers don’t care if they ever see them, or if they come in at all.
There’s no regular ‘face-time’ with a teacher, to give them marks or tell them how they’re doing.
There’s no feedback, they’re on their own.
It feels disorganised and chaotic.
For rebels and rejects this is a good thing.
No one telling them what to do means no restrictions.
Whatever they can think of, there’s no one stopping them.
They can do whatever they want, without limits.
For them it’s like being let out of a cage.
For the others it’s a bad thing.
The people I talked to told me they couldn’t handle that.
The lack of structure, lack of guidance, lack of authority.
So they quit and went back to University.
Two or three of them eventually became account men.
Which is how I got to meet them.
They said they needed the formal structure, the regular feedback.
They needed to continue in the academic system they’d been successful in.
And the academic system, like any formal system, is much more about
the means justifying the end.
Ultimately, we each have to decide for ourselves which is right for us.
The means justifies the end.
Or the end justifies the means.
Form follows function.
Or function follows form.
Which one works for us.
And which is more creative.