ROCKY BALBOA: Going the Distance in Business and Life

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched the fight between Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa from Rocky 1 and fully embraced the metaphor between Rocky’s journey and life itself.

When the fabled saga began, Rocky was a “pushing 30” underdog who took part in club fights when he could and worked for a loan shark not breaking thumbs to make ends meet. His biggest fear was being a bum from the neighborhood. Sure, he had aspirations, but lived a simple life with his turtles and bachelor pad, making jokes with his pet shop girl.

One day, however, opportunity knocked. What happened from there was a one in a million shot, but how many times has opportunity knocked for us in life or business where we failed to answer the call? Initially, our hero was reluctant to take on the heavyweight champion of the world in a bout that made no real sense and for all practical purposes never should have landed in his lap to begin with. That said, every once in a while, we get the golden opportunity of a networking meeting, a new contact, a potential job opportunity we hear about that could better ourselves. Do we take action? Or do we decline, only to kick ourselves later?

Rocky’s decision to take part in the fight was one thing, but he didn’t just show up. He took his training seriously – which required him accepting help from others. This is instrumental – no matter how great or talented we are, we cannot make it all alone. We need the Adrian in our corner who is there win or lose. We need the Mickey who – while he’s a little angry and jaded – he’s a valued mentor and friend. And, despite his flaws, we have the Paulie, who has his moments and once per film makes a heartfelt overture.

There were zero expectations of Rocky – a 20-to-1 underdog versus Apollo Creed. But what is spellbinding about the fight and film is that Rocky’s goal was to go the distance – to be standing when the bell signaled the conclusion of the 15th round.  When Apollo knocked Rocky out in the 14th, even Rocky’s trainer told him to stay down – he felt Rocky had done enough.  But Rocky didn’t listen – he scrambled to his feet, came back out despite the fact he couldn’t see anything, and landed body blows to Apollo then and later that almost spelled victory.

There will be times we are literally delivered knockdown punches – we don’t get the promotion we’re promised. We don’t get the raise we deserve. We lose our job through no fault of our own. We battle through family issues or personal struggles and literally don’t know what to do.

In the seventh Rocky film, Creed, Rocky makes perhaps the best metaphor: Take it punch by punch, step by step, round by round. When you take on the entire world, often you will fall short of goals because you are overwhelmed.  The concept of being the underdog by a healthy margin, the concept of “what do I want to do for the rest of my career” or “how am I going to deal with all of this stuff” can be way too much for us to handle.  Even when others doubt us, when people we thought were friends leave, we have the strength inside to take it one task, one priority, one day at a time.

Prioritize each component of what you’re up against.  Need a job?  Put your best foot forward on each component: a rock solid resume, a unique approach at getting it in decision-makers’ hands, and supreme follow-up.  Hate your job?  Ensure your responsibilities are taken care of, weigh the pros and cons of your role, and decide if it’s something you can continue to do one day at a time.  Having terrible personal problems?  Control what you can, eliminate negative forces and unproductive personal relationships from the fold.  Because, in the end, you must be able to live with your decisions and your legacy and your life.  The people you surround yourself with must be the ones who will support, but also tell you what you need to hear.  When Rocky lost his hunger for the sport in Rocky III it was Adrian who gave him the constructive criticism he needed to face his fear of losing face and the life he had.  That said, as the Rocky story has unfolded, Balboa finds solace in a different small group of people as he loses many people close to him.  That’s life – it will change and force our adaptation, but it will always require we give our best to every task at hand.

The Rocky saga is supremely motivating because it captures the essence of the human spirit: we all want to believe that we can be champions.  The beauty is that Rocky was an unlikely champion – he was an everyman.  He was revered when he rose and was criticized when he fell, but he always did right by his family and those close to him and he did right by the sport, even when he did not get the recognition he deserved.  Even when he was doubted, even when his talents began to fade – he always found ways to add value.  We can take many cues from Rocky Balboa, and we should all always strive to get up for another round.


Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be.  If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to

Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership.  You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving.  You will also be directly contributing to his third book, “A Salesman Forever.”

Question submissions can be made via LinkedIn to Carson V. Heady, this Facebook page: , Twitter via @cvheady007 or e-mail or you may post an anonymous comment as a reply to my WordPress blog at the bottom of this page:

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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