This article is written by TSSM’s contributor Joanna Dutra, a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. Creative confidence coach (The Creative Confidant) with a Fortune 500 background, focused on helping clients build their best personal brand.
Aren’t we ready for a good old-fashioned comeback story? I could sure use a good one right about now. I don’t derive much wisdom from Disney stories or fairy tales, but I do believe in Cinderella stories.
One of our family’s favorite movies is the story of James Braddock that Russell Crowe brilliantly brought to the screen in Cinderella Man. Imagine doing something so cool, so mighty, that you have a whole expression named after you. How many times in your life have you heard someone say, “Well — it’s kind of a Cinderella story.” No matter what, you’re always interested and intrigued by the one who had the experience. And we’re inclined to back the underdog.
And we’ve all been the underdog at some point in our life, and there’s power in rising above our challenge and overcoming obstacles.
What Can We Learn From The Buffalo Bills As A Comeback Lesson?
We frequently use the underdog story for sports as an analogy, and it’s always positive. Look at the Buffalo Bills. They have some of the toughest fans, dealing with loss after loss, even four heartbreaking Super Bowl losses in a row, and hadn’t won a division title in 25 years. But there they are, in all kinds of weather, filling an 80,000-seat stadium in the hopes that someday, their underdog will win. And who can forget the miraculous USA hockey game in 1980 — an underdog story that’s hard to beat. Unless, of course, you’re Spartans fighting in the Persian War. I do not believe those warriors were favored, either.
OK, I’m not comparing the Bills to Braddock. But the 1930s were a time when resources were scarce and jobs were nowhere to be found — a time when the word “rally” meant something you’re working hard for as opposed to a gathering of potentially angry souls. A rally had only positive connotations. Last summer my daughter taught her younger sister how to rally. You rally back and forth in tennis; it’s positive and cooperative. It builds on something; it’s something you want to keep going rather than stop.
Let’s Rally For Our Collective Comeback
You can also rally for someone, whether they are the underdog or not. Embedded in the word “comeback” is “back” — as in, you need someone to have your back. Braddock’s wife might not have been ringside for every match, but she was in lockstep with him mentally; she believed in his ability and his goals.
Braddock was forced to strengthen and fight with his left hand because he broke his right. We don’t have to break a hand to feel we are sometimes limited in opportunity or resources. Shaquem Griffin is an NFL linebacker with one hand and one incredible story. I’m sure he heard “no” plenty of times in his career. But sometimes you just need one really good fan.
After the events of 9/11, New York City staged a comeback for the history books. Detroit is in the midst of a comeback with massive new downtown development and investment.
Let’s have a comeback, people. Let’s have a second chance to make things right. We can rally for something important; we can rally for ourselves, our center, our goodness. The right to be kind to each other.
What makes this time of Covid-19 different is that our words are weighted more when we can’t see everyone in person with the frequency we once enjoyed. Conversations aren’t the same over text or Zoom, or even on the phone. We miss the face-to-face, the embracing via hug but also the embracing of emotional intelligence. We miss picking up on nuances that body language suggests.
Remember the adage “Eyes are the window to the soul”? An authentic smile illuminates in our eyes, but now we are put to the test since a face mask blocks our full expressions. Yet I think our grandmothers always said we should be smiling with our eyes.
Distance Does Make Authentic Connections Sweeter
Sometimes we must get some distance in order to really see things clearly. It seems like we did this last year; when we deprived ourselves of physical connections in 2020, we made different choices about our actual connections. In Cinderella Man, the guy who was fighting hungry fared better than the guy who looked like he’d been fed a porterhouse for the past 365 days.
After all that fighting and winning, Jimmy Braddock went to fight and win during World War II. He became a hero again. Twice over. He owned the docks where he once worked. Then he helped build the Verrazano Bridge in the early 1960s.
Changing is awesome. Be who you want to be and be proud of the efforts it took to get there. Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
In the movie Uncle Frank, the namesake character asks his niece — but really all of us — “Are you going to be the person you decide to be or the person everyone else tells you that you are?” Maybe we need to download the latest version of ourselves. Maybe our system has needed an update for years and we’ve been putting it off.
The time is ripe for a comeback. In fact, if we can see into our future beyond 2020, I think that 20/20 is not hindsight — it’s foresight. The pandemic marks a halting of the way we’ve always done things and a forced improvement. A good underdog story embodies the hope that lives in all of us. We can start as the underdog, or we can back the underdog — either way, we will feel an enormous amount of satisfaction in the evolution itself.