A pep talk.
My favorite moment in the entire Rocky Balboa pantheon is not when he beats the hell out of Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. It’s near the end of the first movie, Rocky, at the end of the 14th round when he’s been beaten so badly, he can barely stand.
He’s so tired he can’t even raise his hands to protect himself. His eyes are so swollen he can’t even see. And Apollo Creed keeps pummeling him mercilessly, blasting him with jabs and hooks from both sides.
“What is keeping him up?” shouts one of the ring announcers.
Apollo blasts him with a right hook, and Rocky drops like a stone.
“Down! Stay down!” hollers his trainer, as Rocky lurches to his feet, trying to grab a rope just to pull himself up. He won’t stay down.
Rocky barely has the energy to beckon to his opponent. “Come on. I’m not done.” Apollo looks away, sad, embarrassed, reluctant to hit him anymore. Rocky weaves as Apollo approaches, like a drunk who’s only aping a boxer, not an actual boxer.
Rocky ducks a right hook and pounds Apollo’s ribs with four body blows that leave the champ holding his side as the bell rings, ending the penultimate round.
In the final round, the tide turns. The crowd chants “Rocky! Rocky!” as he delivers his own savage beating. He takes Apollo all the way to the end of the bout, but ultimately loses in a split decision. As the bell rings, Apollo tells anyone who can hear him, “There ain’t gonna be a rematch. There ain’t gonna be a rematch.”
We all know what happens next.
That 14th round, is sometimes the life of the entrepreneur. Not the wealthy entrepreneur whose brilliant idea turns into an awesome company with a foosball table in the break room and a masseuse who comes in on Fridays.
I mean the entrepreneur who works 16 hours a day just to stay alive. The one who is constantly beaten, pummeled, and abused. The one who’s so tired he can’t even raise his hands to protect himself. The one who gets knocked to the mat for the third time, gets up for the fourth, and beckons, “Come on. I’m not done.”
I’ve been there so many times. Knocked down so many times I’ve lost count. And I will be again.
But I get up.
I have to, because I don’t know what else to do. I get up, dodge whatever is thrown at me, and start swinging. I never know what’s going to happen, but I have to believe it’s going to get better. I have to believe that the next round will be my round. The next fight will be my fight.
When you think you can’t go on anymore, when you’ve been knocked down, and your face is so bruised and swollen that you can’t even see, when the people in your corner are telling you, “Down! Stay down!” get up.
Get up one more time than you get knocked down.
If you get knocked down seven times, get up eight.
Get up, because one of those times — maybe not this time, maybe not even the next one — will be when you see your opportunity. You see your opening, and you take it. You sledgehammer your opponent with a couple of savage body blows, and that’s the moment that turns the tide for the rest of your life.
But you won’t get that opportunity if you stay down. You won’t get that moment if you decide it’s too hard, that it’s easier to just lay there and wait for everyone to go away. And you certainly won’t get that moment if you never get in the ring.
Get up one more time, beckon to the other guy, and start swinging again.
If you do, you just may become The Champ.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, and The Owned Media Doctrine.