The Rocky Balboa Business Lesson

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Ali Cudby is the founder of Your Iconic Brand. Ali Cudby is the founder of Your Iconic Brand.

Have you ever charged enthusiastically into a new project - full of power, swagger and the absolute conviction you would achieve your goals? In your mind's eye, perhaps you channeled Rocky - leaping up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, arms raised over your head in euphoric victory. You heard the iconic Bill Conti "Gonna Fly Now" music. You felt that sense of achievement. It. Felt. Amazing. (In your mind.)

Have you ever fallen short of that mark?

Oh sure - it may have felt like film-worthy motivation in the beginning, but somewhere along the line, it waned. Then stuttered. And then came to a grinding halt.

The classic example is something many people can relate to this time of year - the New Year’s resolution. Maybe you woke up sometime over the holidays, glanced down, and realized your view had changed. There was less toe and more tummy. You geared up and got motivated.

No, not motivated…MOTIVATED!!! You needed three exclamation points to fully capture just how much you were going to crush your fitness goals. And, man, that first week of January, you were a beast! You hit the gym, worked harder than ever before, and it felt amazing!

OK. Maybe “amazing” is an exaggeration. Actually, it hurt. A lot.

And then it got cold. SO cold. I mean, what sane person wants to go to the gym in that kind of cold, amirite? Maybe you skipped a day. Or two.

And suddenly, you were one of those people whose New Year’s resolutions were slipping into the rear-view mirror.

There are business examples of the same phenomenon. Perhaps, as a manager, you resolve to have one-on-one meetings with your direct reports each week. You are super committed to your goal to be an engaged manager.

Then there’s that business trip. You miss a meeting. Or there’s a fire to put out, and you intend to reschedule…but it never quite happens.

You get the idea.

In all of these cases, there’s a gap.

On the one hand, you have a goal that has been borne of sincere passion to achieve. You want to be more fit, a better boss, etc. You have an emotional connection to that aspiration. You have an “Aha Moment” that motivates you.

Aha Moments feel fantastic. They are inspiring. It’s easy to get sucked into the high of the Aha Moment because they embody who you want to be in the world as a person, a professional or even a parent.

Let’s not knock the Aha Moment. These moments can bring clarity. They can help companies recalibrate mission to pivot toward a more successful direction.

But Aha Moments are just that – they are moments.

Most goals can’t be achieved in a moment. Often, they can’t be achieved alone. They require time, structure, and support.

While the heart leaps at the thrill of the Aha Moment, the smart achiever knows only consistent action will bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be. In other words, a plan.

Plans are not sexy, but they are vitally important when outcomes require buy in from multiple people. Plans include tasks and milestones. They require check-ins and validations. To stay on course, people need feedback, recalibration, encouragement, and a shared focus on the value of the goal. That’s work.

That’s getting up when it’s still dark (and cold) and going to the gym anyways.

That’s figuring out how to reschedule the meeting with a direct report – even when you’re on the road and putting out fires.

There’s an equally important cinematic conceit that expresses the execution phase of a plan. It’s called the montage. In a montage you see a character gloss over the tedious work that builds to ultimate success.

In the Rocky training montage, Rocky Balboa's entire grueling regimen to get in shape is distilled into two minutes.

In a montage, the movie makes the regimen seem like it’s part of the magic. In reality, achievement is found in taking consistent action over time. The people who achieve their goals don’t count on the motivation of the Aha Moment to carry them through. They focus on doing the work. Steadily doing the work toward a goal differentiates between empty aspirations and hard-won successes.

This is your year to think big. Achieving your Rocky-At-The-Museum moment is found in defining and unfailingly taking action toward your goal. Only consistent action will bridge the gap between inspiration and outcome.

Ali Cudby is the founder of Your Iconic Brand.

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