Recently, I made a megamix of Rocky theme songs. Though I am not great at it, I made one remix that is impossible to remain immobile while it’s playing. The “Five Minute” rule works great when I’m not feeling it. Because it’s certainly true that motivation follows action rather than the converse. People wait for the urge, motivation, or willpower. It’s the opposite. As soon as the thought hits your noggin, you get up and do whatever it is you were about to put off. Or worse, say aloud, “I need to do so-and-so.” One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was: “DON’T tell me what you’re going to do. Live it. Show me.”
Most of the time, if you practice doing, telling yourself you’ll spend just five minutes on a task cures your procrastination enough to keep going once you start. That’s true with so many things in life.
The Five Minute rule aligns seamlessly with my Law of Increments. If you do a little consistently throughout the day and days, before long, you will amass much effort – and probably consequences.
I know Rocky is old school. One of the reasons it did so well is because Sylvester Stallone (whose real name is Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone) was a nobody with a story about overcoming odds. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay.
Late in my 9th-grade year, I got pissed off at myself one early spring afternoon and decided to go running. I figured if the violence in the house hadn’t killed me, I could risk a heart attack. We lived on the downside of a hill in Tontitown near 4K farms. To say that I regretted starting that day is an understatement. I ran a mile. My shorts were ragged, and my shoes weren’t running shoes. Poor aptly describes my predicament. But I put it all aside and just ran. I did it every day, no matter the weather and how sore I was. After a while, I was shocked to discover that the exhilaration of barely being able to breathe was an absolute high. At the end of it, I knew I’d have a hill to run down. Over time, I found myself sprinting a half-mile before the incline. I added more and more distance until one day, it occurred to me that even distance wasn’t an issue. Years later, I wondered what it was that first day propelled me to stop yammering in my head about what I needed to do – and just do it.
My brother forced me to do pullups and lift weights in the horrid dirt floor cellar on the bottom level of the trailer we rented. He usually punctuated the necessity of compliance by punching me in the upper arm with enough force to numb it. Months later, I turned the tables on him when he told me I had to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I said, “After you, my lady, after which I will.” He struggled and finished. I jumped up on the bar and did thirty. “How many CAN you do?” The look on his face was hard to read. “I don’t know. I don’t count. Pullups aren’t a normal thing I do in the real world.” My brother Mike was ridiculously stronger than me. I didn’t like weights. But if I wasn’t practicing my French Horn or reading amongst the trees, it was safe to hide somewhere, anywhere, rather than inside, where the violence would erupt. I’d do anything to have my brother Mike around so I could duck, weave, and throw punches at HIM.
Later, I realized that when I didn’t have motivation, I would listen to a couple of the songs from Rocky and Rocky 3 in my head. “Eye of The Tiger” played ad nauseam everywhere back then. You couldn’t go to church without expecting to hear it being played in lieu of old hymns. That song always gave me the energy to beat my immobility inertia.
All these decades later, some of the music still motivates me. I loathe many of the songs on the soundtracks. Anything by that crack-voiced Frank Stallone, for example. The new remixes incorporate more of the wall of brass sound that the main theme personifies. It’s just raw power demanding that I stay focused.
Through the years, I discovered that almost all obstacles were a figment of my imagination. Could I do 1,000 pushups a day? No, but I could do 1,500. That’s a bit excessive, I know. I stopped doing quite so many a few days before my emergency surgery about sixteen months ago. Could I run a mile in under six minutes at age 55? Yes. Can I run as fast as my childhood best friend Mike? Hell, no. I still have mud in my nostrils from years ago when I tried to keep pace with him. (I decided he might be Superman.) Could I walk twenty a day if I want to? Yes.
I’ve failed at so many things. So please don’t read all this as a litany of humblebrags. I’m self-aware enough to understand that I wasted a lot of my time and energy. I am proud to be a Spanish bilingual and to be a liberal as an adult. Not just politically but across the spectrum relating to people.
The gist of it is that if we are focused enough to ask ourselves what our goals are, we probably can get there. If we want to. Regardless of most of the obstacles. Everyone has their obstacles. And yes, I do recognize my own privilege by writing all this. So many people have no opportunities or advantages. Mine were massive on both sides of the scale. I’m not so stupid as not to realize that despite the harsh hand I started out with, things are good.
I wish my life had a wall of horns blasting at key moments. It would drown out the complaining and haters, for one thing. It would help to get out of bed, too, not that I have that problem. I’m lucky enough to wake up rattling the rafters most days.
From “Eye Of The Tiger” to “Pancreas Of The Platypus” might be an ideal title for a book to describe my outlook on life.
PS That dust all over my vest is from rolling around on the floor with my cat. I can beat him wrestling any day.