Personal Development

9 life-changing lessons that “Million Dollar Baby” taught me

Mai Pham
Written by Mai Pham

Million Dollar Baby, the movie that stole our admiration for the determination of an over-aged Maggie, went from an underdog to a boxing hero, trained by an underrated coach from a grungy boxing gym.

You might think those things only occur in movies, but if you just look more closely around you, you will find many real-life Maggie, who are trying their best to become the person they’ve always dreamt about. In fact, you might also one of them.

The movie was a success, but it also taught us some valuable life lessons about success.

Life is unfair. People play dirty. Always protect yourself

You were taught to be kind to people, to be fair and nice. You believe that it’s good to be a kind person. And you are proud of yourself for being one.

But it doesn’t mean you have to lower your guard. Because other people might not think the same way you do. Some people are willing to pay whatever the price, just to get ahead of their competitors or win a race.

Be a kind person. But at the same time, beware.

Some people never had a shot in life. If you found yours, do something

As Eddie Scrap has put it, “People die every day, Frankie – moppin’ floors, washin’ dishes and you know their last thought is? I never got my shot. Because of you, Maggie got her shot. If she dies today that you know what her last thought would be? I think I did it all right.”

Many people have lost in their normal daily routine that they forgot the reason why they are here. If you still remember yours, if you have a shot, do something about it.

You have to let go of toxic people, even if they are your family

People who are closest to you are capable of hurting you the most. You don’t want to separate yourself from them, you don’t want to cut them off, because they are family, friends or partners. But if you keep hanging around them, you might end up feeling hurt, guilty and unworthy.

You need to be strong and brave to hold on, but you have to be even stronger and braver to let go.

It’s never too late to get started

Maggie started her boxing career at the age of 31. She was too old to be a boxer. She was older, less experienced and weaker than her competitors, because she didn’t start early.

But none of it matters.

Maggie’s dream is to become a boxer, and without it, she has nothing. She didn’t care when people said that she was too old. She only had one goal in her life, and that was boxing.

Are you guilty of making the same excuses to yourself? Have you been putting things off because you are too busy right now, only to blame yourself later that it was too late to start?

It’s never too late. Imagine 5 years from today, if you decided to pursue your dream, how different your life would be.

Sometimes winning is not the point. The point is getting better

When Maggie won over and over again with a knock-out in the first round of her fight, Frankie didn’t like it. Because she needed to improve herself more, not winning more.

The problem with people who always won is that they don’t know what they are capable of, how far they could go, how much they can push themselves and what their potentials are. Success comes to them so easily that they don’t know how to get up after failing.

Take 100% responsibility for your results

You are 100% responsible for your life. Do not play the victim of life, complaining that your life is not perfect as you want it to be, and quit blaming it on other people or events.

Even when Maggie’s competitor played dirty and punched her after the round has finished, made her end up paralyzed till death, Maggie didn’t put that blame on her. Instead, she blamed herself for not protecting herself all the time even though she was taught so.

There are so many factors that lead to your mistake or failure, both from you and from others. But if you are brave enough to take 100% responsibility for everything that comes your way, you have the power to change your reality.

Never give up on your dream

Maggie came from a very troubled family, her mother told her to quit her fighting career and become a normal person, her coach at first refused to train her because she was too old and she was a girl. She had to work as a waitress by day and trained as a fighter by night. She didn’t have a punching bag when she started. None of that is enough to make her quit.

You can have all the excuses in the world to give up on your dream, but you are not alone. Many people are facing the same problems that you are having, but successful people are the ones who didn’t give up.

You need a good mentor

Maggie started training at home for 3 years before Frankie agreed to train her. She couldn’t throw a proper punch because she didn’t have a trainer. Then under Frankie’s training, she won almost all of her fights.

In order to success, you have to put on the work. No one will do it for you. But you also need a good mentor, someone to show you which direction to go to and help you to get back to your path whenever you astray.

Give yourself some credit

In her few first fights, Frankie- Maggie’s coach- always pointed out what she did wrong and how she could do better. On the other hand, Maggie always focused on the things that she has accomplished, “other than that, I fought well, didn’t I?”.

You cannot do things perfectly from the first time. Even after hundreds of trials, you might not be able to do things perfectly. But that is okay.

Stop beating yourself up, focus on the things you’ve done well and give yourself some credit.

You are a fighter. It’s your moment.

If you ever feel as though the dream you’re pursuing is beyond your capabilities, take a few deep breaths and think of Maggie.

The road from an underdog to a hero is never easy, but it is so worth it.

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About the author

Mai Pham

Mai Pham

Mai Pham believes we can create our own happiness. She helps overwhelmed and frustrated people to ditch their stress and enjoy their lives again. Grab her free actionable cheatsheet: 5 Simple Tips to Release Stress and Bring You Calm in Under 5 Minutes and join her free 7 Joyful Days Challenge email course.

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