The Ultimate Underdog Story
“His whole life was a 1,000,000-to-1 shot.”
Rocky Balboa wasn’t always the most famous boxer in movie history. Once upon a time, he was the last person anyone would expect to be a champ. Not just in movies – in real life.
When the original movie went into production, expectations were extremely low. Sylvester Stallone was relatively unknown in Hollywood, and his trademark voice and style didn’t exactly earn him instant credibility. Despite being the screenwriter and star of the movie, most of the crew considered him and the project a joke.
At one point, in the middle of a scene with Talia Shire (who played Adrian), the actors became distracted by members of the crew who were actually snickering as they were filming. She felt bad for her co-star, and asked if he was ok. With surprising confidence and vision, Stallone reassured her: “They don’t see what I see.”
Luckily, he had an angel on his shoulder, both literally and figuratively. His trainer Mickey was the perfect guide in the midst of this process. Like the crew, he had his own doubts about Rocky’s prospects – remember his first impression of Rocky? “You’re a tomato, and I don’t run a soup kitchen.”
But when I think of Mickey’s words to Rocky over the years, the one quote I’ll never forget is when he said, “I didn’t hear no bell.” It means no matter how bad things look, as long as you’re still in the fight, the story isn’t over.
They might be laughing at you.
They might think you’re a tomato.
They might think your business has no chance to succeed.
But I didn’t hear no bell.
I don’t know about you, but this is seriously getting me pumped up right now! Cue the music, and let’s run some stairs!!!
Seriously though, once again it just shows the power of story. Throughout this Story series, we’ve been coming back to this pattern every week – Rocky shows us how it works, both in the movie and in real life:
- Who’s the main character in the story? Rocky/Sylvester Stallone
- What’s the character’s problem? He’s a tomato who can never be successful.
- What/Who is the guide that the character meets? Mickey
- How does this guide help the character? Mickey is a tough coach who makes him a fighter who never gives up.
- What’s the plan? Chase chickens (Mickey had some weird techniques)
- How did he execute this plan? Rocky was still standing at the end.
- Did he win? YES – while he doesn’t technically beat Apollo, Rocky won the Academy Award for Best Picture, spawned a bunch of sequels, and ultimately ended the Cold War by defeating Ivan Drago.
- How did the character transform? He still talks funny, but Sylvester Stallone ended up as one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time. Who’s laughing now?
We all love a good underdog, but here’s the twist ending: what if your business isn’t meant to be the hero in the story? Obviously, we want you to be successful, but the path to that might be different than you expected. What if the mission of your business was to make your customer the hero, with you as their guide?
There are a lot of underdogs out there who are struggling – they have a problem only you can solve. As a business leader, how do you become the angel on their shoulder, helping them to not give up, encouraging them, “I didn’t hear no bell!”
If these classic stories demonstrate, if you can guide someone to success, it’s a dream come true. And I really believe, you’ll have a customer for life.