Have you ever heard of the George Foreman Grill?
The answer is likely yes. The product has sold more than 150 million units. But that isn’t the boxer’s only business hit. In the years since 1994, when he became the oldest heavyweight champion of the world at 45 years old, Foreman has had his hands in a number of entrepreneurial ventures. He trained his son, George “Monk” Foreman III, for Monk’s own boxing career, and then became an investor in Monk’s successful gym in Boston, Everybody Fights. He started a boxing promotion company, Foreman Boys, with his son George Foreman Jr., and they have partnered with Bob Arum to promote seven fights in Macau, China. And, as Fortune reported exclusively this month, he plans to launch an online meat-ordering company, George Foreman’s Butcher Shop, this spring. You can read more about Foreman’s history of reinvention in our profile from the March 15 issue of the magazine.
We asked Foreman for some of his best advice. Here are five bits of wisdom from the heavy-hitter.
1.) Never stop earning, never stop working.
“It’s a curse to think you have enough. There is never enough. I never rely on my savings, because we all know well enough that even the banks go broke. Earning is the greatest privilege I’ve ever had in this country. A million dollars? Great. But five thousand? Wonderful. I still appreciate that. George Foreman, Bill Gates, anyone—if you just sit back on what you did yesterday, you’re going to go nuts.”
2.) It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
“America is the home of the second chance, even the third and fourth chance. When I started working out again [in 1977, seeking a comeback to boxing] I was 315 pounds. It was hard trying to run at that weight. I ran my knees from under me I was so big. The promoters thought I was a joke. But one fighter after another, I would say, ‘I can be champ, but I can’t start from the top.’ So I was going to start from the bottom. At this time, guys like [Mike] Tyson were making millions. And I’m making $2,000. But I was a sure bet to bring people in. And the purses kept going up. And finally I was offered $12.5 million to fight Evander Holyfield in 1991. I lost that fight, but here, now I had $12.5 million. Back in business. My message when I speak to groups is: you’re an American. And no one can take that from you. This whole country was built in someone’s garage. You can achieve whatever you want.”
3.) Approach things with a sense of humor.
“The comedian Marty Allen came into my life and planted something I was able to resurrect later on: a sense of humor. That man was one of the most influential people in my life. And now you cannot get something serious out of me, you will not get anything serious out of me. I apply that in life and in business. I’m always joking with young boxers, I try to get them out of that seriousness and get them to laugh at themselves. I tell them… the ride will be over. You think it’s a grind and a serious job, and you have to act like you have a grudge, but it’s a great chance to smile and be famous and sign autographs. And it’s short. Someone will replace you soon enough.”
4.) Choose your words carefully.
“The real weapon of mass destruction now is your voice. The microphone. You can destroy everything with the wrong words. Good people never have to worry about that. But a lot of guys today, I don’t know what they’re doing, they go on Twitter or Facebook and they just say the wrong things.”
5.) Embrace technology.
“I like social media. I try everything. Because you must be current. The only thing about the past is that it’s gone. I live in the future. Old people are people who don’t live in the future. You have to keep making progress.”
Bonus: Be nice.
George Foreman III describes his dad’s business philosophy:
“Everything my brothers and I do is inspired by my father. If you put us all together, you might get one half of George Sr. He taught us: be nice. Be the nicest person anyone’s ever met in business. And that’s something we don’t have anymore because everything happens over technology—no one knows how to be nice anymore, we don’t even know how to be social. People want to feel good, and feel good about their purchases. So be nice to work with. And be who you are when no one’s looking. That’s something that I hope 10 years from now I can say I’ve accomplished. When you’re on TV, when you’re not on TV, when you’re with someone, or alone, be who you are.”