“With confidence, you have won before you have started.” —Marcus Garvey
If you’ve ever seen the movie Rocky, you know what the eye of the tiger is all about.
You get knocked down … but you get up again … and nobody is going to keep you down.
That’s the eye of the tiger in action.
It’s setting your eyes on the prize and going for it. It’s fierce results. When you have the eye of the tiger, you know it. You’re unstoppable.
But what happens when you lose that eye of the tiger? What happens when life knocks you down and you’re not sure you can get back up? How do you find your eye of the tiger, then? Where does the eye of the tiger even come from? …
It comes from inside. Don’t look outside for it. Look to the inside. Remember the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man? They all had it all along. The Lion had courage, the Scarecrow was a smarty … and the Tin Man was all heart. The Wizard simply helped point that out. I can only imagine that forever after nobody messed with the Cowardly Lion, there was no problem the Scarecrow could not solve, and the Tin Man I’m sure went on to be a role-model for sensitive guys across the land.
One of my favorite wrestling coaches had a way with words. When you didn’t give your best, you were a “mental midget.” Mentally you gave up before the fight was over. Good guys finished last, not because they didn’t have the skills. It wasn’t because they didn’t have the physical strengths. It was because they didn’t have heart. They didn’t have mental toughness. When the going got tough, they surrendered. Once you give up mentally, what’s left? Your body will be more than happy to surrender. Remember, it’s what your mind can conceive that your body will achieve.
Don’t be a mental midget.
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “intestinal fortitude.” I didn’t know what it meant, but it sounded neat. I had been hustling on the baseball field and I remember my baseball coach remarking to my Dad that I had intestinal fortitude. I later asked my Dad what it meant and he said, “You don’t give up.” You’re relentless. You drive from the inside out.
I remember thinking, doesn’t everybody? … The reality is, not everybody knows that they can jump the hurdle, or tear down a wall. They give up before they are beat. They don’t know that if at first they don’t succeed, they can try again. Nobody reminded them that if they are going to go down, then go down fighting. There’s plenty of time to rest, after you’re gone.
What It’s Like to Give It All You’ve Got
You know that point where you just can’t give anymore? That’s not it. It’s past that. It’s beyond what you even thought you could do. Sometimes it’s way beyond even that. It’s the target past where you aimed. Did you know Bruce Lee always aimed past his target? When he fell short, he still hit his mark.
When you give all you’ve got, you’re not asking yourself, what if I run out of steam? You’re not telling yourself, I can’t … you’re telling yourself you think you can. Maybe slowly at first, like the Little Engine that Could. But then something happens and it’s a change in state. You’re fully engaged. It’s just you and the challenge before you. Your challenge looks you in the eyes … and your eye of the tiger looks back.
Whether or not you suddenly hear the theme song to Rocky, your inner strength comes from beyond you. It’s more than all your prowess. It’s more than your mind, body and heart. It’s more than the sum of your strengths. The mountain before you flinches and gets ready to move out of your way.
Remember the Feeling
OK, so you want your eye of the tiger. You don’t need the Wizard to remind you. Just remember the feeling. Simply remember how you felt, when you felt your best. Remember how you felt, when you felt your strongest. Maybe it was the first time you lifted more weight than you ever thought you could. Maybe it was the day you reached deep inside and called upon your inner strongman to open that jar of peanut butter that just wouldn’t give … and it suddenly flew open as if your hands were possessed by the Hulk. That’s the feeling.
Whatever helps you remember the feeling … hearing a favorite song … snapping your fingers … or playing a scene from one of your favorite movies … use it. Remember when the Bad News Bears won despite the odds? Remember when Cool Hand Luke went on a rampage and shoveled like there was no tomorrow? Remember Stand and Deliver? Remember Braveheart? Remember Dead Poets Society? Fill your head with the movies that move you. It’s those scenes you’ll draw from when your knocked on your heels and Clubber Lang has is fists raised to beat you down. It’s how you’ll respond with … not this time … not this day … and not this way. Whether it’s your inner demon or a real-world bully … you’ll raise your arms in triumph as you run up the steps, knowing you stood strong when tested.
It’s a Choice
What if you just can’t find your eye of the tiger? What if you looked inside and all you find is an itty, bitty kitty? Fine … start small. Even the mighty Oak was once a sapling. At the same time, maybe you just need to kick your courageous arse in gear. Find your catalyst. Play your inspirational head movie with the dials all the way up. Get it in gear. If you get knocked down, get up again. Success is all about getting up to bat more often. Not every ball needs to get knocked out of the park. Remember that it’s not how many times in life you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up. Most importantly, remember that your eye of the tiger is a choice. It’s like a muscle. The more you flex it, the stronger it gets.