Being Grateful Can Turn Hard Times Into Victories: Lessons From Rocky

Although it may not seem like it, today’s post is a Thanksgiving post. I’m thankful for everything in my life — but I want to cover something that most of us aren’t thankful for. Being grateful doesn’t usually include what I want to focus on today:

Our hard times. Our slumps. Our rejections.

The bad times are important, too. And I’m so grateful for them.

As he opened his email inbox, his insides churned this way and that — the anxiety was eating him up inside.

The message he’d been waiting for was there, lighting up his inbox. He breath caught as he clicked to open the email and read these words:

“Thank you for reaching out. Regrettably, we currently cannot accept your request…”

That’s as far as he got before he closed the lid on his computer, before he felt the word REJECTED stamp itself on his forehead in big red letters.

He pulled out his phone and texted me:

“They turned me down. This sucks.”

I replied:

“No big deal. You’re Rocky Balboa — you have a lot more training to do, young padawan.”

We’re all Rocky Balboa. It’s time to assume our roles and train our way to awesomeness.

Enter the slump…

At some point or another, we’ve all gone through hard times. I’ve written about plenty of mine (see my post about how much entrepreneurship hurts), so I’m by no means immune to rough patches. Whether our hard times are personal or professional, they hurt like hell, don’t they?

Which is why I hate watching movies.

I’m aware that makes me very strange. Most people love watching movies, television or most anything else entertaining. But what I’ve realized is that watching movies makes me incredibly anxious — I can’t stand to watch characters go through their inevitable storyline slump.

Every movie has a slump, including my favorites:

In The Sandlot, the kids lose a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and struggle to get it back intact.

In Dumb and Dumber, Harry and Lloyd travel cross-country (on a scooter) to find the girl of Lloyd’s dreams, only to get ultra-rejected.

In How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days, Andie and Benjamin are furious at each other when they discover they’ve both (kind of) lied to each other.

In the Rocky series, Rocky goes through hell and high water in intense training before he can even think of upsetting his nemesis.

Each movie just wrecks me inside as the character suffers through one downturn after another — and that, my friends, is a slump.

A slump is when you feel like there’s nothing going for you, like everything’s working against you.

Until you don’t.

A slump is defined not by its low points but by its ultimate high point.

A slump is defined by its end.

As much as I hate movies and hate watching characters suffer through hard times, a slump is glorious in that it ultimately ends. If not, it wouldn’t be called a slump, would it?

From Apollo Creed to Mr. T to Ivan Drago, Rocky fought time and time again to ultimate victory — but never until he put in the time fighting tooth and nail for his physical fitness and preparation.

This awesome YouTube video compiles all of Rocky’s training scenes in nine incredible minutes of sweaty glory.

Through the series of movies, Rocky faces all kinds of obstacles and rejections:

He fights to prove his self-worth to everyone around me.
He fights to make ends meet when he spends away his earnings.
He fights after his trainer passes away, leaving him distraught.
He fights after watching his dear friend die in his arms.
He fights after facing scrutiny in the media and from his loved ones.

Rocky trains against all odds.

And that’s why, this year, I’m grateful for the hard times. Because tough times are wonderful, too.

What’s so wonderful about hard times?

I know what you’re thinking. Cheerful holiday memories are “wonderful”, but hard times are not.

Nobody likes to feel down in the dumps, to receive rejection letters, or to feel like you’re taking steps backward instead of forward. It downright feels like crap.

So what’s so “good” about hard times? What is there to be grateful for?

We’ve all been told to make lemonade with our lemons, and we ultimately do. If you get rejected from a job, you go onto the next interview. If your project didn’t make the splash you thought it would, you keep working on the next thing. No matter what happens, life goes on and so do our efforts.

But I’m grateful for something else. I’m grateful for what a special kind of learning that my hardships have afforded me.

The greatest learning happens within yourself.

In the words of the wise Maya Angelou:

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

After reading that quote, I ask you:

How do you handle the tough stuff that happens in your life?

In the Rocky movies, our favorite fighter isn’t phased by the hard times he faces. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the obstacles he faces, he puts his head down and gets to work. He says:

“I don’t care how tough you are, the world will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit — it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

And that’s exactly why I should stop getting to freaked out when I watch movies. We all have to go through tough stuff to get to the good stuff.

Not only do we learn from our experiences, we learn about ourselves. We learn how to pick ourselves up and do something better next time.

If I hadn’t failed at my first year of entrepreneurship, I wouldn’t be in a much better place now.
If I hadn’t gotten rid of first official office, I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with my loved ones as I do now.
If I hadn’t gone through a few failed blog attempts, I wouldn’t be writing for all of you now, here on TPV.

If I had never gone through a slump, I would never end up rocking it. 

Because our slumps and our hard times are what allow us to grow.

Is being grateful for hard times worth it?

Today, I’ll join my family for a Thanksgiving meal. (I celebrate the holiday in Nicaragua, too!) I’ll be standing alongside them as we each give thanks for so many things in our lives.

But I want to give thanks for the trials I’ve been through —and for all the wonderfulness I’ve experienced as a result.

And I’m walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

To prove it, I’m getting together with someone I’ve been through a particularly painful hardship with. Will it be easy to sit and talk to this person? No — not easy, but worth it — because I’m ready to give thanks for the bad times, as well as the good.

I’d love to hear from you:

What’s the worst slump you’ve been in? And how did you turn it around? Have you ever been rejected and then been grateful for it later? Somewhere within your hard times, is there something to be grateful for?

Wishing you an awesome holiday from Managua!

— Marcella