Sometimes profound, life-changing insights come from unexpected places.
Case in point: Listen to how one of the real-life heroes who helped to thwart a machine-gun massacre aboard a French train explained how he mustered the courage to confront the armed assailant: “Once you start moving, you’re not afraid anymore,” he said.
What a great motto for all of life.
And here’s another example, from an equally unexpected source: You can learn a lot about courage, perseverance and setting achievable goals… from the movie Rudy.
The 1993 film tells the story of real-life Notre Dame football player Daniel Ruettiger (“Rudy”), a short, slightly built young man whose dream in life was to play football for the famed Fighting Irish.
You can find the best summary of the movie and some of its most valuable life lessons in the Roger Ebert review, which opens with a shortened version of perhaps the film’s most inspiring quote:
You’re 5-feet nothing, 100 and nothing, and you’ve got hardly a spec of athletic ability — and you hung in with the best college football team in the land, for 2 years!
What made Rudy so special? And what makes this film such a great example of how to live? Two things.
Fight relentlessly for what you want — naysayers be damned
Rudy was not “supposed to” play football, not according to anyone in his life — even his own family, who knew how much it meant to him.
As that quote above illustrates, Rudy wasn’t built like an athlete, and he didn’t have any natural skills to compensate for it, either.
All he had was an all-consuming drive to be a part of the Notre Dame football team — and the courage to suit up for practice day after day and serve, essentially, as a human tackling dummy for his teammates.
His family mocked him for it. They told him the whole idea was crazy, and that he should just come home and work at the steel mill. But Rudy pressed on.
And at first, some of his teammates mocked him for it, and suggested he quit or risk getting killed in practice. But Rudy’s answer — “If I cool it, I won’t be helping you guys get ready for the next week’s games. Got it?” — began the process of wining their respect and admiration.
Rudy knew what he wanted. He didn’t need the approval of anyone else. Neither do you.
Set achievable goals — and work like hell toward them
As Roger Ebert perceptively notes in his movie review, Rudy wasn’t crazy. He had no dreams of being a star player.
All Rudy hoped for, as Ebert explains, was “to wear the uniform and get on the field for one play during the regular season, and get his name in the tiniest print in the school archives.”
Rudy was never going to be a starting member of the Notre Dame football team. He understood that. But he did find an achievable goal based on that dream: the chance to suit up with the team for one game and get on the field just once, so he could forever say he was a Notre Dame football player.
And once he’d set that goal, Rudy did the hard work of earning it, putting himself through years of punishing practices — which truly helped his teammates and made a massive contribution to team morale.
Indeed, when the head coach decided just before the final game not to let Rudy suit up with the team — his last chance to do so — every one of his teammates brought their jersey to the coach’s office and demanded Rudy suit up in their place.
For every pie-in-the-sky fantasy we have, there’s a realistic, attainable version of that dream. Work toward that.
But first, watch Rudy.