I’m sure everyone has that one movie that they keep going back to. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, you wouldn’t mind another watch. You cry and laugh, get inspired, resolve to be a better human, decide to er… take up boxing, and so on.
My one movie is ‘The Cinderella Man’. Russell Crowe stars as Jim Braddock in the movie, and there could not be a more convincing portrayal of Braddock ever. (If you haven’t already seen it, slap yourself twice and go see it as soon as you can!) I have posted a little background info about Jim Braddock here, if you’re interested.
There are valuable insights in the movie that could put some perspective in your lives too. Here’s my take on the lessons from this Ron Howard masterpiece-
1. Family comes first: Line right out of a Godfather movie. Braddock was one of the millions affected by the Great Depression. The man who was touted to be the next big boxer, was led by fate and a spate of injuries to sheer poverty. His priority was straight, keep his family well at any cost. When many men dumped their wives and children and fled to other states looking for jobs, Braddock stayed on. He worked on docks, in bars, would shovel snow, fix houses – all kinds of menial jobs to get by. All this because he did not want his family to suffer.
2. Love is all you need: Braddock found his love in Mae, who was a constant support in his pursuits. Their love for each other and their kids gave them the strength to overcome the toil they were subject to. Even when they were down in the dumps, they made sure to spend time with their kids and teach them that values were paramount in life. Braddock was very well off before the depression, but despite the turn of events he never treated his family any differently. A poignant scene is when their young son decided to steal some meat for the family, and Braddock advises him on the street. (I get very senti here!)
3. Friends are your strengths: Jim Braddock and Joe Gould, his manager were the best of friends till their last days. They even enlisted in the army together. Gould was absolutely loyal to Braddock. When his career hit the skids, Jimmy told Gould to go find some other, more profitable fighter to manage but Gould refused. Even when evidence was scant, Gould always believed in Braddock’s potential, that he could turn it around and whip any comer. When Braddock was down during the Depression, it was Gould’s unflagging persistence that secured Braddock his match with Corn Griffin so that he could earn $250. Gould also setup fights with his subsequent opponents and hence, helped revive Braddock’s career. The shy, soft-spoken Braddock was perfectly complimented by street-smart motor-mouth Gould.
4. Hustlers rule: Max Baer was a killer in the ring, literally. He had killed two men during his fight with them. When Braddock secured a chance to battle for the title against Max Baer, he secluded himself in the Catskill mountains to prepare for the fight. His routine was rigorous and disciplined. He ran 8 to 10 miles every morning, then shadowboxed and jumped rope, sparred, and shadow boxed some more. The press dubbed his training camp “Homicide Hall” as Braddock’s training regimen was more brutal than anything they had ever covered. Gould had brought in the very best sparring partners available, and he threw a fresh one at Braddock with every round, constantly keeping the boxer on his toes. Braddock packed on 10 pounds of pure punching power during the camp.
5. Calm beyond ability: Braddock was a picture of calm as he stepped into the ring. This stemmed from the confidence and poise he had acquired for having left no stone unturned in preparation. Baer expected Braddock to be nervous and slow to start, but Braddock began swinging immediately. Braddock was known to take the toughest hits and still be standing. He had never been knocked out. (Eventually he was knocked out, but that was almost at the end of his career when he lost the title to Joe Louis). As one contemporary newspaperman put it, “Serene was Braddock and unafraid. There was about him an inspiring calmness that transcended his ability.” He was so calm before the heavyweight championship that he laid down in his dressing room and took a nice nap. Now that’s calm.
6. Weaknesses into strengths: Braddock fractured his right hand (his regular boxing arm) in three places during a fight. This was in fact the point when he had to “retire” from boxing. When Braddock worked at the docks during his “retirement” he was forced to use his left hand while his right hand healed. This greatly strengthened his left hand and when he returned to boxing, he found that his left jab had finally turned into a potent and powerful weapon. Instead of ignoring your weaknesses, work on overcoming them and sometimes they can become your greatest strengths.
7. Relish being an Underdog: A man who is down and out can simply resign himself to always being on the bottom, or he can use his failures to spur his comeback. Braddock chose the latter. The odds on the Braddock/Baer showdown were 10 to 1, the biggest in heavyweight history. Braddock was always the underdog. Heck, he enjoyed being one! Braddock had the hunger of a man who took absolutely nothing for granted. He thought about all he had been through-the booing crowds, the mercilessly journalists, the injuries, the grinding poverty-and used it as fuel. He wanted to show all the naysayers that they were wrong for writing him off. And all his life, he did just that.
8. Personal Responsibility: During the Great Depression, the U.S. government used to provide relief for people who could not earn. This was the last resort and people would feel like failures taking them. He held out as long as he could, trying to make do with his meager earnings from working on the docks, but he was behind in paying the milkman, his rent, and the utilities. Considering the risk he was putting his family through, he puts his name on the relief rolls. Braddock saw the checks he got each month as a loan, not a handout. He carefully kept track of how much he received, intending to pay it all back once he got back on his feet. After he started his comeback and beat John Henry Lewis, he went the next day to have his name taken off the relief rolls. And when he beat Art Lasky, he went to pay back all that he had received. This was unusual, even for the time. But Braddock took honor and personal responsibly seriously.
This was my learning from ‘The Cinderella Man’. Which movie moves you on a visceral level? Which is your ‘one’ movie? Or are there several? Let me know. Leave a comment.