In the midst of another frustrating bracket, ripping my paper to shreds after a slew of upsets sent my top picks packing, I stopped to think about where this all came from. While I was crying about the early exit of Georgetown, people were about ready to throw a parade for Florida Gulf Coast. Then it hit me; Americans are literally born in a land founded on and by underdogs.
Our country and the very fabric of our existence as the United States of America come from our ability to rise up and excel during improbable circumstances, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I realized that whether in sports, movies, business or everyday life, our nature is to pull for those who are down on their luck and hoping for a miracle.
If school taught me anything about history, it was that we were definitely not supposed to win the Revolutionary War. Had it not been for this historic victory that resulted in the independence of this country, we would probably be under the reign of a monarch thousands of miles away overtaxing us on tea and stamps.
Now I know everything is overpriced these days anyway, but there’s not denying the satisfaction of overpaying in the name of the United States. This battle, that occurred almost two hundred and fifty years ago, still resonates with us because of the amount of pride we have in doing something that was deemed improbable. The fact that this nation was founded under such improbable circumstances can easily explain why we still love the story of the underdog to this very day.
While History is full of improbable victories dating all the way back to the biblical times of David and Goliath, we seem to relate most comfortably in the worlds of Sports and Business. For centuries sports have been one of the most beloved things in this country, and Rocky Balboa seems to be one of the most popular fictional underdog sport figures of all time. Time after time (almost too many times) he has shown the world that determination, grit and hope are the key ingredients in doing something extraordinary.
Lasting 15 rounds with Apollo Creed, taking down Clubber Lang, defeating the symbol of oppression that was Ivan Drago all attribute to the symbol of overcoming adversity that was harnessed in Rocky Balboa. These tales may be far-fetched, but these unexpected victories occur more often than you think and not only do they make for a good story, but they validate our belief that ordinary people truly are capable of extraordinary things.
People are aware that Rocky was not real, but one thing that drew people in was the fact that even though Rocky Balboa was not real, what he stood for and symbolized was all too real. There are almost too many real life examples that people have lived through to name off but the popular ones include the Miracle on ice Men’s hockey team, the 1983 NC State “Cardiac-Pack” basketball team and the “Miracle Mets.”
All different times, situations, sports and stories, but nonetheless give us a real symbolic figure that can portray the idea that hope is not dead and that people can surpass expectations when they were not supposed to.
Sports may give us a good story of what coming up from nothing sounds like, but business provides a relatable experience that we can harness. Not everyone was born an athlete, but everyone at one point in time has had to work to provide and has strived for more power and a higher status.
Rags to riches stories consume aspiring entrepreneurs every year and the business moguls who make something out of nothing are constant reminders of what the payoff is to hard work and determination even if the odds do not seem to be in your favor. Had you seen Shawn Carter as a youngster in the Marcy houses of Brooklyn New York, you would’ve laughed at the thought that his net work would one day be in the ballpark of half of a billion dollars.
Yes, that’s billion with a capital B. Slinging rocks and selling label-less CD’s are not the usual route for one of the most powerful men in recent memory, but rising to the occasion is something that Hov has been known to do. Nobody bets on the drug dealing rapper with no record label to amount to anything, so the fact that Jay-Z not only made it, but MADE IT only resonates that much more with the every day dreamer trying to make it big.
Milton Hershey, although not as sexy a story as Jay, failed two times over the course of a decade before creating almost a complete candy monopoly on his path to millions. Hershey’s ability to fail and prevail is what makes him an underdog for the ages, literally traveling across the country to learn how to improve from his failures. Both men, although different time periods, professions and backgrounds, provide assurance that people can count you out but you’re the one who decides if and when to throw in the towel. Big hint, these men never reached for a towel.
The constant obstacles in business are competition and doubt, both can be internal, as you constantly have to overcome your own fear and doubts to compete at your own highest level. Neither are easier to hurdle, but people like Jay-Z and Milton Hershey prove that it doesn’t matter if nobody believes in you because your will to succeed is all you need.
In the business world today there seems to be no such thing as the impossible, and it doesn’t take all the investors and business models and stars aligning to succeed, it’s what you have within that will put you over the top and above any bar preset for you by your peers.
To the men who were truly underdogs, doing what they set out to do was not satisfying enough. People do what they’re expected to do every day, it’s only when you compete to satisfy your own hunger that amazing things happen because you were the only one crazy enough to give yourself a shot. Both entrepreneurs show that the bottom is not always a bad place to start, it makes it that much sweeter when you succeed and surpass the slightest of expectations.
Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, especially when it lasts a little longer than expected. March Madness produces at least one of these runs every year when a team nobody had winning a game, ends up beating some of the top organizations in the country. You may think these stories are only found in sports, but in reality almost every successful businessperson has gone through trial in error to turn their dreams into an empire.
We love to root for those who “can’t” because we were once the nation that couldn’t. Although they’re glorified examples of extreme victories, the top underdog stories still relate to our desire to succeed, whether it be on the playing field, in the office or on the streets even when the odds are against and the ball isn’t in our court. All these stories do is give us a symbol to idolize while we try to win our own personal battles, which is all it takes to fuel the fire for an upset of epic proportions.
Frank Corona | Elite.