“Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances.
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive.
So many times, it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory.
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past,
You must fight just to keep them alive
It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight.
Rising up to the challenge of our rival.
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of tiger!”
Are you singing along yet? If you are a child of the 80’s like I am, you know that is one of the BEST theme songs to ANY movie series…..
That’s right. The Rocky Saga is one of the best movie series of ALL time.
There, I said it. Some of you are shaking your heads laughing, but the majority of you, especially those from my generation, are mentally high-fiving me right now.
My love affair with Rocky began pretty early in life. Movies 1-3 I remember watching at my fathers house on the weekends. But Rocky lV….. now that movie made me fall in love with the whole series. I remember sitting in the movie theater as a 10 year old kid, totally engaged in the drama that was Rocky Balboa’s life. Even the soundtrack is still one of my favorites of ALL time. Over the years I have become somewhat of an expert on the series and I am proud to say that I am currently unbeaten on several social media Rocky trivia challenges.
Yeah… that’s a total real thing. Don’t judge
Simply put….. I’m a total Rocky nerd.
This past weekend after a long hard day working at a Fall Festival I settled in for an early evening…until I found the ROCKY marathon on TV. My plans changed and I stayed up WAY past my bed time to watch it all like I was watching for the very first time.
I am not gonna lie, I get pumped each time I see Rocky run up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art wearing his trademark gray sweat suit and black converse high tops, with the theme song, Gonna Fly Now playing dramatically in the background. I feel like I could go into the ring myself. During ROCKY 3 I fall apart when Mickey dies. I mean come on…how is he supposed to go on fighting after that?!?!?!? ROCKY lV is always watched with the hope that Apollo Creed will kick the Russian’s butt, sending him and his posse back to Siberia. I cry like a baby each time he falls to his death and Ivan Drago stands there with the smug look on his face and says, “If he dies…he dies.” And when Rocky wins over all of Russia in the final scene, I always feel like it is Fourth of July instead of Christmas, and that I need to sing the Star Spangled Banner.
To list all the reasons I love Rocky would take forever. It simply speaks to me. Through my love of the movies (some would call it obsession) I have found that they have great life lessons in them. I reference the movies so much that one of my friends recently told me that I should write a book and call it, “Rocky’s Book Of Wisdom”. Not a bad idea… but for now I think I’ll just write about my observations thus far.
Never underestimate yourself
Rocky is uneducated, poor, and a flunky for a loan shark at the start of the first movie. To look at his life you would probably say he wasn’t going anywhere fast. He is 30, lives in a dump, is fighting in fights that get him nowhere, and seems socially awkward. Pretty sad.
However, none of this keeps Rocky down. Even when those around him are telling him he’s dumb, a bum, finished, he never quits. It is not about winning, it’s about giving it your best, even when the odds are stacked against you. One of Rocky’s best lines is, “Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.” In life we should live like contenders, who give our best even when the crowd is cheering for our opponent.
The Definition of winning isn’t always about being named Champion
In boxing, you’d think winning means knocking down your opponent. However, for Rocky, in the first movie, it was about, “going the distance,” which meant lasting all 15 rounds with Apollo Creed, the World Champion. Winning should not be what others define it to be, it is a goal you set for yourself. Define what is winning for you, and ignore the preconceived definitions of it.
It’s Important to Have a Mentor
It would be ridiculous to think that Rocky accomplished any of this on his own, and he would be quick to tell you all the credit for his success doesn’t belong to him solely. Who can forget his loyal and dedicated trainer Mickey? More of a father then a trainer, Mickey trained him on the finer points of boxing, but more importantly, he kept Rocky focused and believed in him even when Rocky didn’t believe in himself and was the clear long shot.
Mickey was honest, brash, and at times downright brutal, but he loved Rocky so much and until his last breath believed in him. He taught Rocky one of the greatest lessons in fighting and in life…. You fight until the bell. Even if you get knocked down, you get up and don’t stop till the bell rings. We all need a Mickey. Someone to be honest, who pushes us to be better, and who does not accept failure as an option for us.
Sometimes A Rival Can Become A Valued Friend
The relationship between Rocky and Apollo Creed was one that started as exploitation, but quickly turned into a rivalry. After a couple of brutal battles a friendship and special brotherhood was born. These two had studied each other so closely that they knew the other as well as they knew themselves. They pushed aside the desire to hate and be bitter toward one another, and instead chose to learn from the other and develop a strong respect and deep admiration. After Mickey dies, it is Apollo who trains Rocky for his biggest fight yet against the villain Clubber Lang. He encourages him to get that look in his eyes he once had when they first met. That hungry look of desire, or as Apollo calls it, “The Eye of the Tiger”
Perhaps we could be missing out on a once in a life time friendship because we look at those around us as rivals instead of valued friends. When we stop talking trash about those whom we view as a bitter enemy, and start studying them, and seeing maybe they have something to teach us, we too can perhaps experience great kinship with the one we once spared with. Rocky and Apollo are awesome examples of what can happen when we put down the gloves and open our minds.
You Can Turn a Weakness Into A Strength and Remember Size isn’t Important
In the first movie we learn that Rocky is a “southpaw”, a boxing term that means he is a left handed boxer. However by the time the second Movie comes around Mickey has devised a plan to strengthen Rocky’s right arm to throw off Apollo in their rematch. Overcoming this weakness made Rocky the Heavy Weight Champion of the world, a title he kept against 10 other Challengers. Instead of complaining about our weaknesses, maybe we should work on them, and just like what happened with Apollo, the challenges we go up against won’t know what hit them.
In Rocky IV we have the classic David vs. Goliath scenario when Rocky goes against the half a foot taller, and 60lbs. heaver Russian, Ivan Drago. The moment when Drago stands glaring down at Rocky and says in his best intimidating Russian voice, “I must break you,” I always want to shout, “DON’T DO IT ROCK! REMEMBER WHAT HE DID TO YOUR BEST FRIEND?!?!?!?”
It seems pretty obvious what the outcome will be, but come on…. It’s freaking ROCKY! Of course he is going to kick that Russians butt. Maybe we could defeat our giants too if we chose to stare them down and use our skills to outsmart their intimidating, cunning ways. Tucking tail and running to hide in our corner is never going to help us overcome fear when we face scary situations.
When In Doubt, Get Back To Basics
Rocky didn’t have it all living in the troubled neighborhood in Philadelphia. He trained in the streets and even the meat packing plant where Paulie worked. Who can forget the scene of Rocky punching on those sides of beef in the meat locker? By Rocky lV, he is training in Siberia in an old barn and in the frozen countryside, while his opponent is training in the finest gym with the latest equipment. Do you not get totally pumped when you see him running away from his KGB watchmen up into the snowy mountainside? At that moment when he gets to the top of the mountain and does the classic Rocky arm pump, you know he’s found the Eye of Tiger Again.
Rocky learned to work with the resources he had. He didn’t whine and complain about what he didn’t have, he made do. By doing so, he got back to the basics. He didn’t have the distractions that often come with having it all. Sometimes we can let “things” that are supposed to be a great help, hinder us, by distracting us from focusing on the prize that lies ahead. It doesn’t always take bigger and better. Remember… David took down Goliath with a simple stone.
Don’t Point Fingers
Thirty years after the first movie, the story ends with the 6th and final film, ROCKY BALBOA. Rocky, now in his 50’s has lost the love of his life, Adrian. He is seriously considering going back into the ring for one more battle, and as he is talking with his son, who has become bitter with him because he feels his father’s legacy has cast a shadow over his life, he has one of the most memorable speeches of the whole series.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is 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 you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what your worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers, saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You are better then that!”
Rocky was conveying to his son that you have to take accountability for you own life. Playing the victim and pointing our finger at those we blame, only makes us bitter and keeps us from experiencing life and moving forward. Rocky could have spent so much of his life pointing fingers and casting blame, but he chose instead to get up each time life knocked him down. How much more content and successful would we be if chose to do the same?
Who knew that an iconic movies series spread over 30 years would be filled with so many life lessons?
Maybe you don’t get it. It’s just a movie…
Maybe you’ll chose to watch and see even more. What other lessons could there be?
Just remember friend, Don’t give up. Even when you want to. Even when the crowd stops cheering for you. Keep your eye on the prize. Go the distance.
“Rising up, straight to the top.
Had the guts, got the glory.
Went the distance, no I’m not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive.”
May sound cheesy but…