The Real Thing That Changed My Life

“It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”.

Rocky is my favorite film of all-time. It is actually more than that, and if you know me at all, you know it really is the foundation for which I live my life. The thing I just realized though is that I never really told anyone why it means the world to me, but I think it’s an important part of me that everyone knows. 

Ever since I can remember I have been watching Rocky. I remember watching it when I was a little kid with my Dad, and every time "The Italian Stallion" would run up the stairs, we would have the sound blaring, and I would start replicating Stallone's every motion. My Dad and I both absolutely loved it, and that is where the love truly started.

It wasn't just my dad and me, it was everyone in my family. My parents, sisters grandparents, aunts, and uncles all loved the films, and whenever it was on we would watch it. Any updates with the Rocky Balboa that would come out, my Grandma and I would call each other right away to inform the other about the new developments about our favorite fighter from Philidelphia

When I was younger I would watch Rocky III and Rocky IV endlessly. As I got older, I began to develop a deeper love though for I and II.  As it stands today, my favorite is Rocky II, just due to its passion, determination, and true message to Get Better.

I was Rocky for Halloween, I would replicate his training scenes when I watched the movies, it was simply embedded in my family’s history…we love Rocky.  

Once I got older, it began to transition into something more than a film. I was around 20 years old, I hit a low. A low-point in my life not many people knew I was going through. I progressively gained more weight and was going down a dark path.

One good thing in my life was the fact that Stallone decided to revive Rocky Balboa for the seventh time with the 2015 film Creed. I was of course there opening night with my Dad, and for the first time in a whileI was truly happy again. To see my hero on the screen one more time filled a void in my life.

Three months go by and Stallone actually gets nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the American icon he created for the second time in 39 years. He lost previously in 1976 for the first Rocky, but I knew in my heart that he would win this time. I was rooting my hardest because he deserved it, and I wanted nothing more than to see my hero get something that he deserved.

At this point in my life though I began to hit a dark place again. I was in the worst shape of my life. Some people I loved told me I really needed to lose weight, something they never told me before. Thirdly, someone I really cared about said the idea of dating me was “disgusting", that one truly hurt.

I was losing hope but knew the next night Stallone would be winning his award, I was optimistic.

It’s February 28th, my friends and I are eagerly watching the Oscars waiting for the announcement that Stallone won for Best Supporting Actor, except we were waiting for an announcement that would never come.

He lost. I lost. That was the moment I hit rock bottom. 

For the first time I truly believed that nothing was worth getting optimistic for, nothing was worth getting your hopes up for, but worst of all I felt nothing in life was worth it.

That night I went back to my room and just sat there. I thought about Rocky, and how it was simply not fair that he didn't get what he deserved.

Then I thought about it some more…. and said to myself "It’s not 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."

The words I have uttered for over 10 years finally became more than words. It was a message to me that I needed to make a change in my life. The next morning I woke up with the “Eye of the Tiger”, and the rest is history.

If you have followed my journey you know I lost  70 pounds, created a business to inspire others, and even made my way to meet Stallone and be in the sequel (Creed 2) to a film that changed my life forever.

You see I hit rock bottom, the very idea of being with me was “disgusting” according to someone, but what I did was change into a person some would consider an “inspiration” in their lives.

I am lucky that those things happened to me because the message was there for me the whole time, something had to happen though for it to be awakened. 

My life’s goal now is to make sure no kid ever feels like I use to feel. It’s to make sure that every kid that feels “disgusting” knows that even though they may believe it to be true, they have the opportunity to Get Better.

I have seen every Rocky film over 50 times now (there’s 7), and I will see Creed II at least 5 times when it's in theaters. I have the movie scenes downloaded to my phone to listen to when I’m walking around the city, working out, or even on a train. I have watched the Rocky II training scene about 1000 times. I watch a little bit of Rocky every day of my life.

Am I the biggest fan? I think so. Do I think I am the “Italian Stallion?  Yes, I do. Do I owe a part of who I am to Rocky today? Without question.

I had the honor to meet my hero, which is something I will never forget, but that for me wasn’t the complete goal. What I really want is a picture of Mr. Stallone and I both wearing Get Better shirts. That is when I will feel truly accomplished!

I will never be able to thank Sylvester Stallone for what he has done for me in my life; he truly is the one person outside my family who has changed it forever.

I don’t consider many people "idols". My parents, sisters, and grandparents are those who I consider to be idols to me. They all have had to face more adversity than anyone I have ever known. They to me are all the real-life Rocky.

Sylvester Stallone though comes right after them. He is an inspiration to so many, but for me, he is THE INSPIRATION. The inspiration to never give up, to never stop running, and most importantly to keep moving forward.  

Rocky came out in 1976, it was given a one-million-dollar budget and had to be filmed in 30 days. That low budget film that was predicted to be a weekend flop, went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Rocky, Stallone, and the film all had "A Million to One Shot" to make something of themselves. They took it, and the rest is history.

Hopefully, the biggest accomplishment for Rocky though is the impact I can make on the world around me to never give up, never give in, and to always Get Better.