The Two Keys to Survival

“Going in one more round when you don’t think you can. That’s what makes all the difference in your life.” – Rocky Balboa

A friend is working on developing a daily exercise habit.  Her current goal is to do one minute of sit-ups every day and as many push-ups as she can until her arms give out.  There is no set number of reps to hit, only an attempt to do better than the day before.  Recently, she was having a hard time getting started, so she did her routine to the sounds of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and I couldn't help but think of what a perfect theme this was for such a challenge.  After all, “Eye of the Tiger” was famously the theme to Rocky III.   

I have a confession to make.  I get pretty choked up from certain movies.  I stop short of shedding tears, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t come close.  It isn’t the sad ones that get me.  It’s not when a main character dies (not even Old Yeller).  What get me are the moments of great personal triumph when a person finally overcomes their great obstacle and experiences a hard-fought victory.

This brings me to Rocky.  That’s right.  I’m talking about the 1977 Academy Award winner, starring and written by Sylvester Stallone.  This film has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for its cultural significance.  In many ways, Rocky became the model for countless sports movies to follow over the ensuing 40 plus years.  If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and go do so now, because I’m about to ruin the ending for you (also, what have you been doing for the last 40 years?  Go watch Rocky!)  OK, I warned you…

Rocky loses!  That’s right, when the big fight is over, a crowd rushes into the ring and Rocky is screaming out “Adriaaaaan!”  The announcer in the background is announcing that the hero had lost the fight by judges’ decision.  This is all while Rocky is declaring “We did it!”  Rocky is up there losing the fight of his life and I’m sitting on my couch getting choked up by his moment of personal victory.  Why is this?  It is because Rocky defined victory differently than the judges did.  He wanted to “go the distance” and prove that he could go round for round with the best boxer in the world and still be standing when the final bell had rung.

Consider the Boston Marathon.  There are 30,000 participants every year and only one can finish first.  Is that person the only winner?  What about the one who beat their “personal best” time?  What about the one who completed their first-ever Boston Marathon?  

The world, our country, and our community are muddling through a tough period right now.  We don’t know how long it will last, but we know how long it has been.  We, as individuals, may be facing struggles of our own.  I submit that we should challenge ourselves to do two things. 

The first commitment that we should make to ourselves is to incremental improvement.  Give yourself small victories by doing a little better today than you did yesterday.  Do an extra sit-up.  Beat your personal best time on your run by just a few seconds.  Don’t be shy about celebrating your wins.  The only definition of victory that matters is your own.  Nobody needs to know if your accomplishment today was doing four sit-ups instead of the three you did yesterday. 

The second, and perhaps most important commitment to yourself should be to “go the distance” against whatever challenge you face.  If you get knocked down, pick yourself back up and throw another punch.  You owe it to yourself to still be standing when the final bell rings.

“Victory belongs to the most persevering.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte

Related: Fear is Nothing to Be Afraid Of