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3 Reasons Why the Underdog Wins, Per "Rocky"

Since many of my blog readers are pursuing one creative dream or another (and may feel like an underdog), I thought I’d write about “Rocky” this week.

Like the odd couple and fish-out-of-water tropes, the underdog story provides amazing dramatic mileage for the writer, actor, director and audience member alike. Not only is the underdog story rife with conflict and stakes (i.e., ‘dude’s up against the odds!’ ‘will he lose everything, or will he make it??’), but it provides a rich journey of character development.

But how we view the trope is a little problematic. Often, in our culture, we tend to think that despite the odds, the protagonist pulled off a monumental feat.

I posit another theory.

It’s because of - NOT despite - the odds that the underdog wins.

Your typical underdog isn’t given much in terms of circumstances (whether in real life or in fiction). And that actually serves because he has to rely on his more powerful asset: his mind.

In “Rocky,” here’s how that shows up:

1. Rocky’s “why” is greater than Apollo Creed’s. Wanting to bust out of his seedy Philadelphia boxing circuit (and, of course, impress Adrian), Rocky’s reason for the big fight is so much greater than Apollo Creed’s (which seems to be a pompous victory lap). No, it’s not easy when he’s enduring grueling training or experiencing doubt before the fight, but his reason for doing this keeps Rocky on his A-game as he prepares (and eventually) wins this fight.

2. Resourcefulness > Resources. Resourcefulness is the ultimate superpower. Why? When deployed artfully, resourcefulness begets resources (and not the other way around - think about it). If you can take a situation and use it to its best advantage, you gain more power. Rocky knows this, and since he doesn’t have the money for a fancy gym or equipment, he uses whatever’s free (i.e., pre-dawn runs in the streets, jogging up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, punching the hanging cow carcasses in the freezer, etc.). He doesn’t need the fanciness of a team, a gym membership, or what-have you. Which brings me to my next point, namely.

3. Rocky’s course is harder than Apollo Creed’s. We don’t see a lot of Apollo training in the film, but we can guess that if he’s the heavyweight boxing world champion, he’s probably not punching cow carcasses. And that actually seems to be to Apollo’s detriment; when Apollo comes coasting into the fight arena dressed as George Washington crossing the Delaware, we get the impression that this is a vanity fight for him. Bad move. The flight is bloody and brutal, but I’d like to believe that since Rocky has maintained his mettle, all of these obstacles his previous obstacles have served (not hindered) him.

So, then, it should be no surprise then that underdogs win. When life used circumstances to punch them down, they deployed the wherewithal to counterpunch harder (and win).

BUT those who do - the smart underdogs - tend to be the exception (and not the rule). Many underdogs get swallowed up by their circumstances and defeat themselves in their minds first. That's not judgment; it's just the human condition.

So if you feel like an underdog and know you need a shift in perspective, hit ya girl up below. Let's see how we can help you become the "overdog" in your story.

Something to consider: Did you know that's there’s a widely-told story that Sylvester Stallone was so broke pre-Rocky that he he had to sell his dog, Butkus? After Rocky’s incredible success, he bought his dog back. (Uh-huh, talk about about underdogs).

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