Welcome to the Rocky Balboa School of Motivation! Here are four powerful lessons drawn from the life of Rocky Balboa, the ultimate motivational underdog.
Each lesson features the message broken down and explained, but also includes videos taken from the various Rocky films that will be sure to get you hungry to get back in the gym and kicking arse.
A Quick Primer on All Things Rocky Balboa
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life, I’m sure you are familiar with the name Rocky Balboa. Played by Hollywood action legend Sylvester Stallone, Rocky was the title character of six boxing drama films that chronicled his rise from an unknown battler to the heavyweight champion of the world.
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In each successive film, Rocky was confronted with various life crises, ever-stronger opponents, and his own aging body. Throughout the series, Rocky came to define the perennial underdog, continually drawing strength from the struggles he faced to overcome the odds and succeed. Here are the four lessons I believe to be most valuable to us all:
“Going that one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”
1. Get the Work Done
Whatever your ambition or goal, you will never succeed unless you get the work done. You can’t biohack your way around it, nor positive mindset your way through it. You simply have to train and train hard.
In Rocky II, this lesson was eloquently spelled out by Rocky’s trainer, Mickey:
For a 45-minute fight, you gotta train hard for 45,000 minutes. 45,000! That’s ten weeks, that’s ten hours a day, ya listenin’? And you ain’t even trained one!
As well as getting the work done, sometimes you have to be willing to do more. Sometimes you’re going to need push harder and hurt more than you realize to achieve success. In Rocky IV, Rocky faced his toughest opponent in the undefeated Russian Ivan Drago. To prepare for the fight, Rocky was forced to train on his own in the middle a Russian winter. To win the fight, Rocky and his support team knew he would need to train harder and push himself beyond what he had done before:
Duke (Rocky’s trainer):
You’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed. But when it’s over, I know you’ll be the one standing. You know what you have to do. Do it. Do it!
If that didn’t fire up your training juices, then check out this epic training montage built from all the Rocky films:
2. Never Quit
Rocky himself said, “Going that one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”
What Rocky highlighted in this scene is the concept of never quitting. Getting the work done will get you to the start line of your chosen challenge, but during tough events you will require something more. When you are being pushed to your limits, there will come a moment when you consider stopping, giving up, or quitting.
The ability to keep going – to never quit – in such situations is something forged within. It comes from deep within your heart and your mind and needs to be developed during training. To witness this kind of never-quit attitude, watch this clip from the first Rocky film where even Rocky’s trainer tells him to quit (stay down).
Something worth remembering in life: It’s pretty hard to beat someone like Rocky who never quits.
3. Going the Distance Is More Important Than Winning or Losing
In this scene, Rocky highlighted something far more important than winning or losing – going the distance:
I was nobody. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance.
Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.
Many of us have become creatures of instant gratification. We want results immediately and often balk at the time it takes to achieve something. Or worse still, we forget that sometimes training or competing is much more about the journey it takes you on, rather than the end result.
Is what you’re fighting or training for that important that you’re willing to go the distance regardless of the result? If you aren’t, then you are on the wrong path.
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
In perhaps the most inspirational scene from whole Rocky series, Rocky highlighted the most powerful lesson of all – persistence. The ability to just keep moving always.
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.
You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
As I’ve said before, this personal trait more than anything else can make all the difference between success and failure in your life.
We’re All Underdogs
While these lessons are drawn from a fictional character, they truly are powerful motivational moments that will work for anyone. In the end, just like Rocky, we’re all underdogs.
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Everyone at some point has experienced a life, training, or competition moment where they were the underdog. Where the odds were stacked against you, where you had to fight through never-ending struggle, or where you were expected to be beaten and quit. Our individual battles may be different, but collectively we are all fighting the same underdog fight, just like Rocky.
Whether you’re struggling for motivation, training for your next fitness event, or just dealing with tough times, I challenge you to apply Rocky’s motivational lessons to your own life. As Rocky said, “That’s how winning is done!”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.