Saturday, July 30, 2011

...from Rocky Balboa

We all have a shot at the greatest title in the world, just like Rocky Balboa, the classic story of the underdog fighter who had the will and heart to win. After all, if a fictional character can be named 7th greatest movie hero of all times and get inducted into a real-life hall of fame, why couldn’t we?
The Oscar winning franchise, written and stared by Sylvester Stallone, began in 1975 and has raised a generation with lessons on life and winning. Over the last week, I watched the entire Rocky marathon to see what we could learn from The Italian Stallion on business.

Get a feel for the original movie with this quick recap on the MGM might also want to hear the soundtrack while reading through this blog...

The Ten Things I Learned…from Rocky Balboa

1. Give others an opportunity
Rocky didn’t fight his way to fame, he was chosen first. The movie franchise begins with the current boxing champion, Apollo Creed stating he’d like to give “a local Philadelphia boy a shot at the greatest title in the world…” Sadly, Rocky was chosen from a list by the sound of his nickname “The Italian Stallion” and not his skills. Nonetheless, he put on a great fight. Give people a chance to succeed in your business, but choose them on demonstrated skills not on the appeal of their nickname.

2. Define what it is to win
In boxing, you’d think winning means knocking down your opponent. For Rocky, in his first movie, it was about “going the distance”, which meant lasting all 15 rounds with Apollo Creed, the world champion. Winning shouldn’t be what others define it to be, it’s a goal you set for yourself. Define what will make you a winner and ignore preconceived definitions of it.

3. Learn to work with limited resources
Rocky didn’t have it all growing up in the troubled Philadelphia neighborhood. He trained in the streets and the local meat packing industry. Who could forget the classic scenes of Rocky training in the meat freezer? By Rocky IV, he trains in the Siberian outdoors, while his Russian opponent trains with the finest technology and steroids. Essentially, you can’t expect to always have the best tools at work, learn to work with –and appreciate - what you have and let determination do the rest.

4. Size doesn’t matter
The classic tale of David and Goliath was retold in Rocky IV when the champ had to fight Russian Ivan Drago who was half a foot taller and 60lbs heavier. Movie Spoiler: Rocky kicks his butt despite his size. Many of us are employed at smaller companies constantly battling the larger competitor, but when there is a will to win, there is a chance. Boxing is 90% in the skull, according to his trainer Mickey.  You need to learn to outsmart them with skills, speed, and determination.

5. Turn a weakness into a strength
Early in the franchise, we learn that Rocky is a “southpaw” a boxing term that means he was a left-handed boxer. By Rocky II, Mickey’s strategy was to develop his right hand to throw off Apollo in their rematch. Overcoming his weakness made him the heavyweight champion of the world, a title he kept against 10 more challengers. Develop your weaknesses into strengths to win at work. Like Apollo, your coworkers and bosses won’t know what hit them.

6. Do what you do best
When Adrian asks Rocky why he fights, he innocently answers “I fight because I can’t sing or dance” Throughout the story line, he tries different jobs – staring in commercials, cleaning the local meat industry – but recognizes fighting is all he knows, it’s what his best at. Ask yourself if you are doing what you do best. Never lose sight that you too are a fighter, and you pick the ring.

7. Motivate someone
The first couple of movies follow a similar story line, Rocky trains unfocused with some fear, anxiety, and disbelief until someone -mostly his wife Adrian but his trainer Mickey too – motivates him to win with some touching deep speech. At this point, “Eye of the Tiger” kicks in and real training begins. Even the strongest champs need someone by their side to motivate them. As a coach, boss, husband or wife, include motivating others in your everyday tasks, give others the confidence and skills they need to succeed.

8. Don’t leave important things & people unattended
By Rocky V, the champ retires and takes on a Tommy Gunn as a protégé. While he trains “The Machine Gun”, Rocky losses sight of his family, but more importantly his son. He gets so wrapped up in winning through Tommy’s fights, that he fails to realize what Adrian later confessed “you’re losing us, you’re losing your family” We are all guilty of working extra hours at the expense of leaving our loved ones unattended. Winning is really about finding the right balance between your corporate battle and being a champion at home.

9. Don’t point fingers
Thirty years after the first movie, the story ends with Rocky Balboa – the 6th and final film. In it, the retired 50+ year old fighter reconsiders going back to the ring. His son Robert is struggling in the corporate world and blames Rocky for being a shadow over him. Rocky comes back with the most memorable speed of the series, and one lesson that captures it all “go on and get what you’re worth, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her…” To me and you, it means taking accountability of our corporate lives and not blaming others for our misfortunes at work.

10. Overcome difficult obstacles – life’s toughest lessons are outside the ring.
Throughout all six movies, Rocky faces difficult times in and outside the ring - losing his trainer Mickey to heart failure, his friend Apollo to a steroid-enhanced opponent, and his wife Adrian to cancer. Add to that list getting punched for endless rounds from Apollo, Clubber, Ivan, Tommy, and more. But the wisest lessons learned in the 6th film was his memorable speed “It's not about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…that’s how winning is done” You can’t avoid obstacles at work, but you can overcome them to end every scene in your life being a winner.  Don’t take it from me. See the moving lesson on Youtube

I'd like to end with a line from Rocky III when they revealed his bronze statue at the Philadelphia’s Art Museum, “every once in a while a person comes along who defies the odds, who defies logic, and fulfills an incredible dream.” Be that person.

I can’t believe how many lessons I learned from a fictional boxer, and how difficult it was to narrow it to just ten, but that’s the name of my site. Nothing stops my followers from sharing their 11th below.