November 12, 2018

How to win a bar fight at a barmitzvah (and other business skills gleaned from Parsha Lech-Lecha)

The unexpurgated title of this article is How to win a bar fight at a barmitzvah, or, how to overcome your current work challenges, enjoy success in the area of your calling and fight the good fight.

Nobody expects a genuine bar fight to break out at a bartmizvah party but that is what happened in the lobby of the banqueting hall at a friend's coming-of-age party. Someone had accidentally provoked partygoers from a Gipsy wedding that was taking place in the adjoining banqueting hall, and a ruckus broke out in the lobby.

The host immediately sprung into action, bowed his head low, spread his arms and ran towards the troublemakers, driving them back and knocking them off their feet. Another guest, an ex-serviceman who served two tours of duty with the British army in former Yugoslavia, immediately locked down the entrance to our party to stop any trouble getting in – or anybody getting out. Within minutes, the whole situation was quelled and the merrymaking resumed.

King Solomon taught ‘there is a time for war and a time for peace’ (1) and this often applies to our working life. Hopefully we are not literally at war with our colleagues, but there is a warlike quality that can be helpful when we want to get a job done. When we bring passion and enthusiasm to a project, we can overcome the negativity of other people. We can also battle against our own doubts, procrastination or non-productivity, and fight our own self-defeating behaviours.

The Kabbalists describe the patriarch Abraham as the embodiment of lovingkindness, but part of his ability was to know when it was time to fight. A lesser-known story is when his nephew Lot was kidnapped by neighbouring kings, and Abraham immediately mobilised a fighting force, executed a night-time raid, rescued Lot and defeated the enemy to great acclaim (2). What differentiated him from other vanquishers was that he refused to take unnecessary spoils of war; his focus was on completing the objective rather than gaining a selfish personal bounty.

Even the ancient yogis, the people who are most associated with peace and matters of the spirit, begin their key book The Bhagavad Gita with the fratricidal Mahabharata war on the battlefield. This is typically understood as the internal battlefield of overcoming one’s negative patterns, but nonetheless there is still a fight to reach inner peace.

When showing up for work we can be faced with unexpected challenges such as personality conflicts – the equivalent of the bar fight – but we can overcome obstacles when we commit 100% to the process. When we make the task about ourselves – ‘what can I get out of this?’ – we can use up unnecessary energy, but when we are focused on our objective and committed to positive outcomes such as helping other people, success lies within reach.

“When the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of a tiger…” Henry V, III:i.

Marcus J Freed
Marcus is CEO of boutique training company Freedthinking (“>www.bibliyoga.com). Buy his new book at