Rocky Balboa, Rocky Speech, Rocky American Flag

More than anything else, this Rocky speech dragged me out of a hell I couldn’t find my way out of.

The truth is, it would change the course of my life forever.

“You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. (He gestures to the palm of his hand). I’d hold you up to say to your mother, ‘This kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.’ And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watchin’ you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started lookin’ for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know.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. You, me, or 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. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”

– Rocky Balboa

I remember being at my worst laying sick in bed, mentally sick, physically ill, beaten down and feeling like I had been dragged through hell, and deciding to watch Rocky Balboa, the last round Sylvester Stallone would fight in the Rocky series. I had always loved Rocky movies, but after Rocky V, I really didn’t know what to expect.

What I soon found out was that the movie would have probably the greatest impact on my life, more than any other movie, book, or piece of media I had ever seen. This post isn’t a breakdown of the movie, which you should watch by the way, but it’s about one quote…a quote that actually became my senior quote in high school, and how it changed the course of my young life.

“But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa

In the speech to his son, I didn’t relate as much to the literal talk between father and son, but was instead struck by something much deeper that only one other movie, Warrior, has been able to do. I saw my weaker self, the part of myself that landed me exhausted and sick in bed fighting against my potential – the man I knew I could become and who would put on the gloves to fight for his dreams and what he believed in.

Evan Sanders painting Rocky Speech, "It ain't how hard you hit. It's abotu how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." - Rocky Balboa

Those childish words spewing blame, embarrassment, and fear sent shivers down my spine. I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all been in a place where we have surrounded to our almost innate ability to blame everyone else for what we don’t have and who we have become. If there was any characteristic that properly defined my younger high school self, it would be just that: blame.

I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was in fact responsible for my choices, my actions, and my reactions to the events that had occurred in my life. I wanted to blame my family, my friends, the weather, anything I could possibly find so my ego wouldn’t be damaged by the understanding that I had created my own worst nightmare. Fear has truly coursed its ways through my veins and paralyzed my dreams and growth.

And there stood my potential as if to say, “Kid, before all of this got to you, you were going to be something great. But look at you now, you’ve become a shadow of what you could have been…and the only way you are going to get back to creating something special is by continuing to take the hits and to get up time after time believing that you can accomplish anything you want to in life.”

Tony Robbins, one of my other heroes, tells the Rocky story in the following video, a video I hadn’t found until years later, about the original inspiration for the Rocky movies and a background on Sylvester Stallone’s life itself. It’s an interesting story, one that I can identify with in many ways, but as with most media I digest, I try to pick out something that relates to me beyond the obvious.

Stallone knew what he wanted to become and he sacrificed everything for it. I knew what I wanted to become, but wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices.

That was the truth. A harsh truth indeed, but the truth nonetheless.

My greatest fear was to relive my despair as I had to hang up my baseball cleats because of structural issues in my elbow. That fear, the fear that I would be so close to a dream and have it stripped from me, would destroy all of my attempts at achieving goals in the future for years. But most of all, that fear destroyed my belief in myself.

I had learned how to deal with the hits in life. I had found something deep inside of me that could process these things and then I found writing which allowed me to dump everything out onto fresh white sheets of paper and express myself in a way that I had never known I could before. But what I couldn’t do yet was dream, and then with ruthless determination and integrity, act on those dreams. This didn’t stop me from attempting however. After years and years of attempting something and being brought to a final breaking point, I went in one more round with those Rocky words in the back of my mind and everything clicked.

When the load is seemingly too heavy to bear, you have to go in one more round and give it everything you have. You have to pick yourself up when you’ve been knocked down and with blind faith keep moving in the direction of your chosen path. I say blind faith because anything short of completely trusting your vision will not get you to where you want to go. Dreams are beautiful things, but they have a dirty secret. The secret is that they are going to challenge you in the worst and finest ways possible to test you to see if you are indeed worthy and ready of achieving such a thing.

That’s how I look at all those years I spent failing. I wasn’t the man who could have achieved that dream, but I was building myself into that man through failure.

Every time I failed, I tried again. Every time I failed, I searched for answers. Every time I failed, I found new ways to learn how to achieve what I wanted to achieve. This process was grueling and mentally taxing, but now, being at the finish line, I understand the value in it. But there is one thing that is truly the most important thing of all.

I believe in myself now.

I actually do, and I know that the next endeavor I embark on will have the momentum of the past achievements behind it. Whenever I hit a rut or get stuck in the mud, I can think back to all of the times I actually overcame the barriers that my previous dream had placed before me. And I think there is a valuable distinction between the barriers that happen in life and the barriers that occur when you’re chasing your dreams.

The barriers that occur in daily life are things that happen to you. You get injured, someone leaves you, you lose your money, things like that. But the barriers that appear when you are chasing your dreams are something much more mature, tricky, and brilliantly difficult to overcome. They don’t happen to you, they happen for you. You chose the path. You chose the dream. You made the decision to go all in and with that decision you signed the dotted line that said, “I will face every obstacle and defy every fear that comes in front of me…give me your best shot.”

Forever, I will have the Rocky Balboa speech in the back of my mind when life throws its best shots at me…and forever, will be motivated to go in one more round.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project