Just about everyone knows the story of Rocky. It’s the classic tale of an underdog rising up and succeeding in boxing and love. What isn’t there to like about such a lovable character?
Growing up I knew about Rocky, but never had seen any of the films until I was a teenager. One Christmas I bought a four-pack collection of the Rocky movies for my dad. We sat down together and watched through all four over the course of a few days. Watching and listening to my dad and being able to connect with him on something was important and impactful to me.
It sounds cheesy, but there are a lot of great life lessons to be learned from Rocky. Sure there’s the whole “never give up” message. Or “even when it’s hard push harder”. Be a good role model to youth. And even “fight for your friends”. There’s more to the legend than that, though.
In the first movie, near the beginning, one of the first interactions we see Rocky have is with a guy he’s collecting money from for his boss. Rocky is supposed to break this dude’s thumb because he’s late on a payment. Instead, our hero chooses compassion, and even when offered the guy’s coat as extra payment, the Italian Stallion goes back to his boss and says, “I think he’s good for the money next week”.
Living in a world full of people who choose to be harsh and numb, compassion should be our first choice. Even if it costs us, gets us picked on, or gets us chewed out. Chances are you’ll be remembered more and receive more gratitude, if you’re compassionate and understanding, rather than greedy.
Rocky showed us what an uneducated man can accomplish. He did was he had to do to pay the bills, even if it was stuff he didn’t enjoy or want to do.
Mick also taught an important lesson in the first film. Even when we see the biggest potential in someone, it’s okay to say, “I’m done”. Rocky hadn’t been serious about fighting and fighting well until Apollo came along. Mick had given up on Rock up until this point.
It’s okay to take a break from investing into people until they’re ready to actually change or put actions behind their words.
Let’s skip to Rocky III. Enter Mr. T and a attitude you can feel through the TV screen. It’s my least favorite of the first four films, but it’s message is one of the most important you could ever take away from Hollywood.
Mick, one of my personal favorite, secondary characters in movies, suffers a heart attack and dies after a heated exchange between Rocky and Clubber Lang. The Stallion learns that despite loss, the best you can do is adapt and press on. Apollo helps Rocky get his fire back, and helps him get back on top.
When hard times happen, whether it’s through a death, through depression, through losing a job, you have to adapt to your situation and lift your chin up and start punching again. You can’t stay the same and you can’t wallow in self pity or shame.
Rocky IV taught us about “we can all change” and about unity. But the message I take most from it is don’t be afraid of a rematch. Your butt got kicked once, and you’re scared. Are you going to lie down and take it, or punch above your weight and conquer the odds?
One of the most underrated characters though is Adrian. Even when she was scared of losing Rocky or didn’t approve of him fighting, she still supported him and loved him. She showed interest in the things that interested Rocky, even if it was about fights or stupid little things.
Pauly was Rocky’s brother-in-law that was pushy, mean, and a drunk. No matter what, though, Rock looked out for him.
More than anything we need to love, support and listen to those we care about the most. Or that’s how we lose them. And always look after family, even if they’re hard to deal with. They’re still your family.
Rocky is more than just the story of a fighter. It’s a story of a family, of life, and of learning. I can guarantee you, that next time you accomplish something hard, just yell, “Yo Adrian, I did it!” and you’ll smile every time.