Five Life Hacks from Rocky Balboa
I'm a child of the Star Wars generation. Lucas' sci-fi blockbuster came out when I was 12 and I saw it—I think—about 20 times that summer (pre-VHS mainstream, so I had to go to the movie theater every time). But as I've grown older, it was Rocky, the Best Picture of 1976, that resonates with me still today. I own all six of the saga on DVD and, even though I'm willing to admit that not all of them are real winners and offer in some ways the egotism and airbrushed cheesiness of 1980s Stallone, I still love the creation of Rocky Balboa and his particular outlook on life.
From Rocky (1976)
• Be available for opportunities when they appear.
Well, ya see, sir I understand you're lookin' for sparrin' partners for Apollo, and I jus' want ta let ya know that I am very available.
There are countless opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis for all of us. What prevents us from taking advantage of them is fear—fear of change, fear of failure, fear of humiliation. When Rocky decides that the life he's leading is a ticket to being a loser, he starts looking—for anything. He searches. He finds Adrian in the process and, when the opportunity to spar with the Heavyweight Champion of the World appears, he's ready to jump in.
From Rocky (1976) and Rocky II (1979)
• Learn to read.
Rocky has a terrible time of benefitting from his fame after the first fight because he can't read and is, thus, unemployable in any arena but boxing. He ends up being a part-time worker at Mickey's Gym and his dignity is lost.
Gazzo: Good. Now, tomorrow I want you to collect 400 from Del Rio. He's behind in his payment three weeks and I don't like it. When I tell you to break a guy's nose or thumbs as a “late payment notice,” you do it!
Rocky: [to Gazzo as he walks back towards the car] Hey, how do you spell “Del Rio?”
Gazzo: [angrily] Open a dictionary, Rock!
Rocky: What's a dictionary?
Once Rocky learned to read, he had more control over his own life. It probably would've helped him in Rocky IV to have learned a little math, too.
From Rocky III (1982)
• Talent is no substitute for preparation.
By the time Rocky gets to the third film, he's going soft. He doesn't have that Eye of the Tiger and, instead of taking his time in the ring seriously, he loses focus and relies on his raw talent. Clubber Lang trains hard and is hungry for his moment and knocks the shit out of Rock causing Mickey to have a heart attack and croak.
Mickey: Well, Rock, let's put it this way. Now, three years ago you was supernatural. You was hard and you was nasty and you had this cast-iron jaw but then the worst thing happened to you, that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized. But don't worry kid. You know, presidents retire, horses retire, Man-o-war retired. They put him out to stud. That's what you should've done, retired.
Retired or taken his training seriously.
From all six films
• A Musical Montage makes the toughest tasks seem cool as shit.
Every time Rocky goes into the arduous task of training himself for the Big Fight, the Bill Conti score kicks in and we get the standard but effective montage.
Gotta big job? Plug into your Spotify and crank some hard rocking tunes and the time flies. You feel more badass than you probably are and even doing the dishes seems sort of epic.
From Rocky (1976) and Rocky Balboa (2006)
• It isn't really ever about winning; it's really about going the distance.
Only really learned in the first and last films, but the best lesson Rocky can teach us. Very Buddhist, when you think about it.