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Want to be happy (or at least feel better)? BE BETTER! -- Watch this scene from ROCKY (the original)

Just saw Creed II. Loved it.

But then I've loved every Rocky movie. Creed II reminded me that the original Rocky is the inspiration for all my Want to be happy and feel better? BE BETTER! movie scene posts. Not only has Rocky impacted me more than any other film, it proved to me that a single scene can improve a life. Rocky continues to deeply and positively influence mine.

There are at least a half-dozen scenes in Rocky that I've used in my classroom to make a point or teach a lesson. But this relatively unremarkable, mostly forgotten scene is the one that most motivates me.

The "Little Marie" Scene

If not for her reappearance 30 years later in Rocky Balboa, few would even remember the Marie character. Truth is, the first time I watched Rocky (when I was just 21), the "Little Marie" scene barely registered with me.

It wasn't until years later when, watching as a middle school teacher, did I realize the significance of what Rocky mutters after Marie seemingly dismisses his well-intended lecture with that "Screw you, Creepo!" line.

Rocky's reaction changed my life. "Yeah, who are you to give advice, Creepo?" he asks himself, "Huh? Who are you?"

"Yeah, who are you to give advice, Creepo? Huh? Who are you?"

Those lines transformed how I look at myself and how I look at everyone else -- especially anyone trying to teach, coach or advise. They inspired one of my favorite lessons (and chapter three in Missing Pieces). And, today, I'd argue that "The Three Questions" are more relevant than ever. They should be our checklist for evaluating our leaders and assessing the media.

The Three Questions

The three questions that Rocky was essentially asking himself were

1. Who are you?

2. What have you done?

3. Why should I listen to you?

At the time, his answers were weak. He was a mediocre boxer and a collector for a loan shark. He had done nothing notable or even good. Why would anyone want to follow his guidance? The rest of the Rocky story is about how he earns good answers to the three questions.

From that scene on, I look at leaders, teachers and advisors through the lens of the three questions. Right or wrong, if their answers are unimpressive, I respectfully dismiss their leadership and/or counsel.

Regrettable, we too often place (or allow) people into leadership positions who don't have good answers to the three questions. And the avenues have opened for almost anyone to be part of today's "media." But real journalists pay dues and earn respect. With a little research, it's not difficult to differentiate between trained pros and amateur posers.

On the flip side, I try to see myself as my students (or readers) see me. If they ask, "Who is he? What has he done? Why should I listen to (or read) him?" will I have good answers to their questions?

For a teacher or writer, credibility is crucial, but earning it has been a never-ending challenge. Graduating from college, obtaining a teaching credential, completing my masters degree, writing a newspaper column, publishing books, earning a blackbelt, competing in martial arts tournaments -- none of those gave me the instant respect I crave.

After 32 years of teaching, before I can teach almost anything, I still have to work like heck to get kids to listen. I still have to beg, bribe and coerce students to focus. If I had better answers to the three questions, I think, they'd pay attention!

If Steph Curry, Rihanna or some other kid icon* appeared in my classroom, students' jaws would drop. Then they'd close and everyone would listen.

Of course I never expected to achieve superstar status, but I hoped to have more of a platform than I do. So, inspired by Rocky, I'll just keep working like heck for listeners and readers.

I hung a Rocky movie poster in the back of my classroom, to remind me that students will be thinking the three questions about me.

Want to be happy (or at least feel better)?


Use the three questions like your cell phone camera. Direct your questions outward to evaluate leaders, advisers, influencers and the media. But then flip them around and take a selfie.


*So who would 6th and 7th graders most want to have as their substitute teacher? On whose every word would they hang? I asked a bunch of them at their school in Hayward, California. I had to Google some of their choices, but I feel like each selection, in his or her own way, has good answers to the three questions. At least for a young adolescent.

  • Ella Mai (English singer/songwriter)

  • Anyone from BTS (the Korean pop band)

  • Kevin Hart

  • Lionel Messi

  • Apollo (one of their classmates, which I thought was nice)

  • The ACE family (YouTube stars)

  • Ninja (E sports star)

  • Stephen Curry

  • Buster Posey

  • my parents (nice)

  • brother (nice)

  • sister (nice)

  • Priyanka Chopra

  • Odell Beckham Jr.

  • Daisy Johnson/Quake (fictional comic book hero)

  • Lucy Hale (actress)

  • Liza Koshy (YouTube star/actress)

  • Hillary Clinton

  • Michael B. Jordan (Creed!)

  • Ariana Grande

  • AmandaRachLee (YouTube star)

  • Tyga (rapper)

  • Beyonce

  • Oprah

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