The premise behind Rocky III was that Rocky, after defeating Apollo Creed in the second movie takes on challenger after challenger, knocking them out and securing his hold on the heavyweight title. Over time, Rocky gets soft without a serious challenge. He has reached the pinnacle of his sport, he has a wife and child that he is in love with, financial success, everything he could ever want. And when he finally faces a worthy contender, he gets knocked cold. Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) was on his way up from poverty, hungry and focused on winning the title at all costs; in short, he was everything that Rocky was in the first two films.
It's far easier to win the title than to keep the title.
If you don't know where your next meal is coming from (literally or figuratively), you have to hustle. You have to sacrifice. You have to accept the pain that comes from struggle. You have to go without because there is no choice in the matter. But what happens when we reach our goals? Once we have reached a degree of comfort and success, how do we keep the fire going? Once every day stops being a struggle, it is very to lose the sense of urgency that allowed you to get to that nice, comfortable place. To beat the Rocky analogy to a bloody death, how do we keep the eye of the tiger?
I believe that an important part of staying hungry is simply staying grounded. The jobs of our generation are usually not in the fields or the factory. We spend all day inside, where there is air conditioning and comfortable chairs and e-mails and polite arguments on the rare occassions where debate is required. This may be our reality, but I am not sure it is The Reality. This kind of constant comfort makes us a little soft, a little weak, a little prudish. We don't want to get our hands dirty.
We should actively fight this. We may as well accept that at least for now, our work looks a lot different than our grandparent's did, and in many ways, that is a good thing. But during our personal time, I do believe it is important to live a strenuous life. We should hike and camp and sleep outside and we should play in the dirt.
We should be involved in something that causes pain and discomfort at times, because that is Reality.
In generations past, men fought and they would be friends afterwards; disagreements forgotten and mutual respect gained. Now we are all scared of taking an ass-whuppin'. So we are sarcastic and snarky and cutting and passive-aggressive, but we don't flat-out disagree or argue in full voice. We go home and text message our friend about "that jerk that stole our parking spot."
When I was in Hong Kong a while back for a job interview, the owner of the company and I were unable to communicate directly. He spoke no English and I spoke no Cantonese. Everything went through a translator. We had meetings all week, and every word had to go through a 3rd party. While I was able to get a good feel for the company, I was not able to get a good read on the man. That Saturday came and he invited me (through a translator) to go fishing. I was a little surprised, but of course accepted. We rented a small boat and coasted out to an area where the fish were supposedly biting. We dropped anchor and he pulled out the bait, made up of shrimp and large, white-bodied worms. Without hesitating, he took out a pocket knife and cut up the worms. He then wiped the blood and grime on his pant legs. In this one action, I felt more of a kinship with this man then I had in the last 5 days. Despite his success, he was still willing to get his hands dirty.
I accepted the job.