Make Reality: Questions with Dr. Wladimir Klitschko
Dr. Wladimir Klitschko is one of the most accomplished heavyweight boxing title holders and an Olympic gold medalist. He developed a four-step method, "F.A.C.E. the Challenge," to guide others to develop their own willpower and act more focused, agile, coordinated and persevering.
Speaking to PMI during the Virtual Experience Series (VES), Klitschko explained how this mindset brought him success for nearly 30 years as a professional athlete, how he is scaling the method to help people and organizations meet their own challenges and reach their goals, and the project that he would like to make reality in this exclusive interview for PM Network®.
PMI: What is your understanding of project management and how does it fit with what you’ve done in your own life?
Klitschko: Back in Soviet times, you had to be seven years of age to be accepted into the first grade. When I was quite young, my mom was a teacher in my group in kindergarten so I was with her literally 24/7. But I didn't want to be in kindergarten anymore, so I bugged her every single day until she gave up and said, “Okay, I'm going to put you together with a schoolteacher and a director of the school and you can talk. He's going to say no and that's it, don't bug me anymore.” Thankfully, she actually put us together and I asked him if I could be in the first grade. He said, “No,” but I used anything and everything in my power back then as a five-year-old to convince him how much I wanted to be in the school. And, I won! I got accepted into the first grade at the age of six. It was projection; I didn't know exactly what was going to happen, but I knew I needed to be in school sooner rather than later.
So, projection is the key word. I actually love the title because you project onto something. Even at an early age, I was projecting onto something that I really desired and was actually obsessed with. Obsession has a meaning with a sort of negativity, but please do not take it that way. I'm using obsession in the extreme shape of love, which helps me identify and reach my goals. Going back to my childhood, that's when it all started. I was age five and this was my first project—I just wanted to be in school.
PMI: How do you approach managing projects?
Klitschko: You really need to identify two spaces out there. First, there’s yourself and your ego. Again, not in a negative way, but as the driving force. People with a big ego, in many cases, are successful athletes, musicians, journalists, politicians, and so on. Ego drives us to reach our goals. The other space is for the team and your allies—that's the ecosystem. I think it's crucial and important to understand that right from the start—together with your allies—you will go further to reach your goals.
PMI: What is the most challenging project you are managing right now?
Klitschko: Project number one is to be the best example possible for my daughter. In everything that I do, the best way to motivate and teach people is with my own example. Most importantly, if I'm a good father, I can also be a good challenge master, a businessperson, a politician, whatever I want. The second project is my methodology, F.A.C.E. the Challenge, to spread the word out there, because there are a lot of people, especially now because of the pandemic, who definitely need to know how to face their challenges and how to motivate their group to solve them together. The Challenge, if you go systematically and methodically, will help you to identify your goals, as well as your problems, and knock them out and be a winner.
PMI: What is one piece of advice to help our community manage projects better?
Klitschko: Identify who you are. It's not how, why, but who—that's the question. And as long as you know who you are, you will identify your goals and what you are obsessed with. If you just think about some goal that you're not in love with, eventually it is going to become difficult and you're going to give up. But if you're obsessed about your goal, you will knock it out. You can knock out any problem—defeat your problems and challenges—and you will succeed. I'm extremely positive about it.
PMI: What is your moonshot idea that you would love to assemble a team around and make reality?
Klitschko: The sport of boxing has been challenged for a long time because it’s not structured and systematic. You have a lot of different sanctioning bodies—you have promoters, managers, broadcasters and everyone else—it's a conflict of interest. Professionals and amateurs are not under one roof and, basically, everyone is fighting each other. Everyone is trying to protect their own interests, but not the core of the sport. And who is the core? The core is the athletes and the fans. If nothing changes, the sport of boxing will continue to have struggles and difficulties and will lose respect.
I have a dream to unify the sport under one roof—amateurs and professionals would have an educational plan, financial plan, pension plan, life insurance and health insurance. Don't forget: There are fighters who are, unfortunately, losing their life in the ring during the match or after the match every single year. It’s not just a statistic. Sometimes, their families or the athletes themselves are not capable of paying their bills or even paying for heathcare. To speak of a personal example, Corrie Sanders, who I lost a heavyweight fight to in 2003, was killed while attending his nephew’s birthday party at a restaurant in South Africa. It was an armed robbery and I was saddened when I heard the family struggled to pay the burial expenses. Things like that really make you sad in the most monetized sport ever. In the sport of boxing, we all talk about glamour and millions of dollars for each fight. But, you also have examples that are not pleasant and that really triggers something that makes me excited about changing it once and forever to unify the sport, put it under one roof and have it ruled in the correct and see-through way for future generations. That's my moonshot.