It’s the American dream.
It’s the Cinderella Story.
It’s the underdog beating the odds.
It is one of our favorite story formulas. It just never gets old to see the triumph of the underdog.
I first saw the original Rocky movie when I was around 10 years old. I’ve seen it again since then, but not recently, until tonight. I was surprised. I always forget what a great story it is. Not only that, but I was struck by some great principles for life and leadership.
Here are my top five:
- Unconditional Love – Rocky clearly should have knocked out his complete jerk of a friend, Paulie, on several occasions. But, he doesn’t. He continues to extend grace to Paulie and treat him with dignity. Paulie is constantly trying to sponge off of Rocky and ride his coattails, but Rocky puts up with him.
- Persistence – Rocky is downright tenacious in his efforts to win the heart of Adrian, the shy pet shop clerk (also, Paulie’s sister). With his characteristic simple wisdom, Rocky says, “We fill gaps… I got gaps. She’s got gaps. Together we fill gaps.” Like they say, behind every great man is a great woman and a surprised mother-in-law.
- Clarity – We all need a good dose of cold, hard truth sometimes. When Mickey, the tough, old boxing coach, tells Rocky that he could have been a great fighter, but instead he became a leg-breaker for a hoodlum, Rocky tries to rationalize it with, “It’s a livin’.” Mickey’s reply – “It’s a waste of life!” The stinging clarity of that statement hits Rocky harder than any punch could. Instead of knocking him out, though, this punch wakes him up to the truth of his situation and his worth as a man.
- Strength – Like it or not, if you want to win in life, you have to learn to take a punch. As clichéd as it may seem, when you get knocked down, you have to be able to get back up and keep swinging. To be able to do that, you will need to do the hard work of training. The training montages in the Rocky movies are awe-inspiring.
- Honor – The only time Rocky comes close to giving Paulie the beating he deserves is when he is defending Adrian’s honor. In addition, he treats everyone with honor and respect beyond what they have earned. He’s not perfect. For instance, he’s not above calling someone a bum, but he is quick to show respect and kindness to everyone, even the bums and the arrogant kids calling him names.
That’s it – my top five life lessons from Rocky. I feel like we should start a movie club (like a book club without the reading). We could watch the same movie and share our thoughts. What do you think? What movies would you suggest?