4 Life Lessons Learned from Rocky Balboa

Creed (#Creed), the seventh entry in the Rocky movie franchise, set an industry record for previews yesterday and is getting rave reviews. As a long time lover of Sylvester Stallone movies, especially the Rocky series,  I am bummed that the movie isn’t being shown in Israel until January 28!

In order to feel like I am joining in the Rocky celebration kicking off for Creed’s official U.S. release tonight, I have decided to share life/spiritual lessons from the Rocky series.

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!

  1. Find Yourself a Spiritual Mentor

Rocky was destitute and living in a dilapidated apartment in the original Rocky movie. And his boxing career was going nowhere fast. Eventually he caught a lucky break, but his life didn’t really turn around until he met a legendary boxing trainer named Mickey. Mickey’s life experience, combined with Rocky’s natural skills and heart, took them both to the top.

As one of our sages taught, “Make for yourself a Rabbi.” Good teachers accelerate spiritual learning. Mickey was Rocky’s “Rabbi” inside and outside of the ring, and in a surprise twist, during Mickey’s funeral we found out he was Jewish (when Rocky said the Kaddish prayer for him)!

In Creed, an aged Rocky becomes an invaluable mentor to the latest generation.

2.   Be Charitable

A true spiritual journey involves helping others. In Rocky III (can you tell that is my favorite Rocky movie?), Rocky takes on Thunderlips (aka Hulk Hogan) in a charity match. Upon seeing the massive Thunderlips, Mickey begins having second thoughts, but Rocky stresses the importance of being charitable.

3.   We Can ALWAYS Change

It’s a little-known fact of history, but Rocky single-handedly ended the Cold War. In IV, Rocky flew to the Soviet Union during the height of Cold War tensions to fight the fearsome Ivan Drago. Rocky expected the Soviet fans to hate him, but eventually he won them over with his grit and they began cheering for him.

The Mishna advises us to repent one day before our death. But how do we know exactly when we’ll die? Exactly. We don’t. So the time to begin repenting and changing is NOW.

4.   Don’t EVER Give Up

Life is tough. We are constantly tempted to give up or at least complain. In Rocky Balboa (the sixth movie), Rocky admonishes his son to “be willing to take the hits!”:

In Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.’s excellent Artscroll book, Simcha: It’s Not Just Happiness, he explains that collectively the Jewish people are like the moon because sometimes we seem shrunken and things look dark, but we know that we will once again shine brightly.

I hope you have enjoyed my light-hearted look at the life lessons spiritual seekers can take from Rocky. Yo Adrian!

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