I grew up with the Rocky movies and must confess that I still love them today. The seventh installment – Creed – is out in cinemas. And the story has stood the test of time. Its lessons are as relevant now as they were four decades ago – particularly for business leaders.

There are the obvious ones such as “it ain’t about how hard you hit, but about how hard you can get hit…” But if you dig a little deeper, there are a few more that can inspire you to finish the year strong and put yourself in a position to win in 2016. Here are my top five:

1. Identify your real purpose

Rocky movies were never about the fights. Rocky I, for instance, is a love
story. The rest is simply plot to move it forward.

Lesson: Don’t get enamored with the competition, the beauty of your products or internal processes. Focus on the true purpose of
your business. Why do you really exist? This will inspire customers and attract the best employees much more than the latest battle slogan.

2. Don’t slack on training

Everybody loves the training sequences in the Rocky movies. I remember watching
them before tests in high school to get motivated. And it always worked.

Lesson: Success comes from what you do leading up to the main event. Don’t cut training short. Have the discipline to do that dry-run before your the next presentation or sales pitch – even if you’ve delivered it a million times. Nothing can replace preparation.

3. Go the distance

In Rocky I, Rocky knew that he could not beat Apollo Creed and confided to Adrian that “All I want is to go the distance.” To last a full 15 rounds and not be knocked out, he knew he had to adjust his mindset. 

Lesson: While business is all about winning, leadership requires humility. Don’t set unachievable goals. That can be just be as damaging as aiming too low. Address challenges openly. Not doing so is a recipe for future failure. And know that every individual inside a company – big or small – makes a difference. You don’t need the CEO title to do it.

4. Earn it every day

The Rocky movies are not just about rising to the top. They are also about what it means to remain at the top. Rocky loses his “Eye of the Tiger” – his will to win – in Rocky III. He has to change his surroundings and confront his fears about losing to get it back and reclaim his title.

Lesson: There is no room for complacency in business. It is easy to become comfortable when things are going well and you are at the top. But the very best know that what got you to the top is not what will keep you there. It takes hard work every day.

5. Don’t let others take your dreams away

The story of Rocky is also the story of Sylvester Stallone. Stallone had an offer to sell the movie rights completely. But he held out to star in it.

Lesson: Whatever your dream is – your start-up, your project – don’t let others “buy” it away from you. Pursue it with a vengeance. You might not have all the credentials, but nobody else will give your project the authenticity it needs to be as big as your dream.

Year end can be a tense time. And we could all use a little kick to get through it.  Inspiration can come from anywhere. Even the movies. Rocky is a timeless story of an underdog that carries many lessons that have personally picked me up and motivated me to push a little harder. Go a little longer. And finish even stronger.

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  1. Debra Curtis-Magley

    Clever post and great insights. I’m a fan of Rocky too, but must admit I really liked Clubber Lang. He took advantage of Rocky’s complaceny and delivered a focused, forceful story of his personal brand that audiences couldn’t ignore. My lesson — complacency creates a vacuum that your competitors will fill to capture your audience. Always stay focused.

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