Strategic Planning Lessons from Rocky Balboa
If you’re anything like me, you can’t resist watching a Rocky movie if you happen to stumble upon it while searching for something to watch on TV. Heck, I’m not even ashamed to admit that I shed a tear every time I watch the original Rocky. You're probably asking how this relates in any way to strategic planning, am I right? You’ll be surprised to know that I have found the first two Rocky movies teach us quite a few strategic planning lessons that we can use in our everyday lives.
*Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen the first or second Rocky movie, then this post contains a few spoilers for you, but since they’re both close to 40 years old, I don’t too feel bad.
Storyline: Underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa, gets shot to win the title against the world champion, Apollo Creed. Rocky loses the fight during their first movie but ends up winning the belt the second time they meet. To put it into current terms, Apollo Creed was the Floyd Mayweather of his day, and Rocky was an amateur fighter. Rocky becoming the champion over Apollo made the impossible, possible-- making many people fall in love with the movie. Who doesn't love an underdog?
1. Be Ready to Pivot
Rocky knew he had to fight the world champ and that it would be no easy task. Having no access to the best training resources, he simply relied on hard work. He got up at 4 a.m., chugged a dozen eggs, and ran around town to the Eye of the Tiger song on repeat. Rocky didn’t have all the answers when he accepted the fight of his lifetime, but he didn’t spend months deciding on how to begin. He just got started and pivoted when he didn’t see the results he was looking for. When he became bored of running alone, he decided to get his dog, Butkis, as a running partner. Most people who get bored with something just give up, but not Rocky. He pivoted and slightly changed up his plan in order to keep his head in the game.
Apply his approach to your strategic planning efforts. When your organization isn't seeing the results you desire, do you just throw in the towel and give up? Do you head back to the drawing board and spend months writing out an alternative to your initial strategic planning? What you should be doing is staying on your toes, being ready to pivot, and making changes whenever things aren't going as planned. Change and imperfection are inevitable, especially when it comes to strategic planning, so you might as well be ready to adapt whenever possible.
2. Real Results Take Real Action
I think the most important strategic planning lesson we can learn from Rocky is that all is that you’ll never know all the answers, but that shouldn’t scare you away from the chance of a lifetime. Rocky knew that beating Apollo would change his life forever but that the journey would be far from easy. As the old saying goes, “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
There’s a time for planning and there’s a time for action. If Rocky spent all his time writing down his training plan and never jogged up the Philadelphia Art Museum stairs, it would’ve made for a terrible movie, and poor results when it came time to fight. Many organizations will spend more time planning than they actually spend doing, and clearly, that's not going to get you very far. The important takeaway to being successful is striking the right balance between planning and action.
Now get out there, get fired up, and make the impossible- possible!
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