I was channel surfing the other night and, as part of the “male code,” stopped when I came upon Rocky II. For you boys who are not yet men – and for you women who have no desire to be men – the “code” requires us to stop and watch the rest of the movie whenever we happen upon one of the Rocky series. There is one truism about certain movies: there are those that once you get a glance of them, you just have to keep watching. The best examples, based on my taste, are any Rocky Movies. And these – Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore and For Love of the Game.
As I was watching, it struck me how many times Rocky films unwittingly dole out better business advice than the best McKinsey consultant and better life advice than Freud.
Interviewer: What’s your prediction for the fight?
Clubber Lang: My prediction? PAIN!
Success in business and in life involves pain. Sacrifice is a fundamental building block for creating a business or a family. Better to predict pain and prepare for it as a core part of your emotional makeup than to think you can avoid it.
Mickey: The worst thing that can happen to you, that can happen to any fighter – you got civilized.
Here “civilized” is a synonym for “comfortable.” Get too comfortable and the other “fighters” will knock you out.
Apollo: Damn, Rocky, c’mon. What’s the matter with you?
Rocky: Tomorrow. We’ll do it tomorrow.
Apollo: There is no tomorrow. THERE IS NO TOMORROW. THERE IS NO TOMORROW.
This is the boxing version of my favorite saying: if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Our only guarantee is today – this moment, this time, this place. Make it worthwhile.
Rocky: Nobody owes you nothin’. You owe yourself.
Paulie: You’re wrong. Friends owe.
Rocky: Friends don’t owe! They do because they wanna do.
One of my favorites — you should see me do it in my “Rocky voice.” It encapsulates two main themes.
“You owe yourself.” You cannot withstand the sacrifices and the bumps and bruises of building a business (or a life) if you are not committed FOR YOURSELF. Doing it for someone else will not sustain you during the dark times.
“They do because they wanna do.” We are not in this life alone. Giving to others – time, talent, treasure – is fundamentally sustaining and a key ingredient to a rewarding life.
Rocky: You ain’t so bad. You ain’t so bad. You ain’t nothin.
This is being said while Clubber Lang is absolutely pummeling Rocky with punches. We have a choice when life starts pummeling us. The market turned; interest rates rose/declined; we got a bad diagnosis; your father died unexpectedly – you can look for a place to hide OR you can face it head on. AIN’T SO BAD!
Rocky: Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.
This has always been a consistent theme of Michael Marcon Tweets. Those who achieve great success are always those who have outworked everybody else.
Apollo: He’s just a man, Rocky, so be MORE MAN than him!
To truly accomplish your goals in business or in life, you cannot expect to be just like everyone else. You have to be a better version of yourself. Notice that the exhortation is not to be a different man. It is to be more man. We have been given blessings, skills, and abilities. It is about maximizing what we have.
Rocky: 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. 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.
Nothing to add, here.
Rocky: Cut me, Mick. C’mon, cut me, Mick.
This is the ultimate example of doing whatever needs to be done to achieve your goal. You will recall that right before that quote, the referee told Rocky, whose eye was swollen shut, that he was going to stop the fight. Rocky yelled, “Do not stop this fight!” What are you willing to do to achieve your goals?
Rocky has taught us many things – work ethic, sacrifice, unyielding love and devotion (try not to get choked up when he reads the paper to Adrian at her grave site), perseverance. He also teaches us that wisdom comes in many packages – the shuffling, bumbling thug from “da neighbahood” is full of wisdom and sweetness. The pipsqueak manager who butchers the English language has experience and insight and strategy if we are just willing to listen. The shy, plain pet shop clerk has the heart of a lion.
If you take the time to learn the lessons that Rocky has offered us over the years then someday, maybe, just maybe, you will able to achieve your goals, look at your loved one who supported you all along the way and shout, “Yo, Mary! We did it!”
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.