14 Life Lessons from the Movie, Cool Runnings

I don’t know about you, but every four years when the Winter Olympics come around, I’m always reminded me of the movie, “Cool Runnings.” Growing up in the 90’s, I enjoyed this movie from a child’s perspective. It was funny, heartwarming, and inspiring. Now, as an adult, I watch the movie with an even deeper appreciation than I had before.


The following is a list of lessons that from the movie that I believe can be inspiring for us all.


Life Lesson #1: Life’s not fair

Life isn’t fair. The movie shows us this from the very beginning when Derice is pleading to Mr. Coolidge to run the race again, claiming it isn’t fair that we was tripped. Mr. Coolidge responses “It (Life) rarely is, my boy.” Still, Derice does not give up on his Olympic dreams. He accepts that life is fair, and yet, he still finds other paths to keep his Olympic dreams alive.

Life Lesson #2: Ask, and be persistent

Derice didn’t just ask Coach Blitzer once and immediately accept his “no.” He politely asked on multiple occasions which showed his seriousness and his commitment, which ultimately, changed Coach Blitzer’s mind.

Life Lesson #3: Reject the naysayers

Don’t let haters rent space in your head. Throughout the movie, the team is referred to as a “freak show,” a “big joke,” or just outright laughed at. Still, the athletes continued to believe in themselves and persisted to work hard.

Life Lesson #4: Leaders must be the most disciplined

At first, Sanka wants to be the driver. Coach Blitzer, however, disagrees and believes that Derice should be the driver. After a brief debate, Coach Blitzer gives the following speech and wins the argument: “You see Sanka, the driver has to work harder than anyone. He's the first to show up, and the last to leave. When his buddies are all out drinking beer, he's up in his room studying pictures of turns. You see, a driver must remain focused one hundred percent at all times. Not only is he responsible for knowing every inch of every course he races, he's also responsible for the lives of the other men in the sled. Now do you want that responsibility?” Leaders must be the most disciplined on the team and lead by example.

Life Lesson #5: Think creatively

Using track sprinters to push the bobsleds had never been done before. Nevertheless, it was this outside-the-box thinking that set the Jamaican team apart, and despite being non-traditional, gave them a competitive edge.

Life Lesson #6. Everybody needs friends

Derice needs a team to compete, but even more than that, he gets the support of his wife, his community, and eventually wins over just about everyone!

Life Lesson #7: It’s never too late to redeem yourself

No matter how hard and how far you’ve fallen, you can always redeem yourself. Coach Irving Blitzer was disgraced from the sport for cheating. Still, he puts his guys (the team) ahead of his pride and proved his character as a changed man.

Life Lesson #8: Take chances

When Coach Blitzer is reluctant to coach Derice, Derice says to him: “I’m your chance, take it.” And even though he’s failed in the past, Coach Blitzer takes another shot. Later in the movie, only 3 other people in a packed room of prospects agree to take the risk and be part of the team. In the end, however, this risk pays off for all of them.

Life Lesson #9: Greatness takes sacrifice

Junior sold his car. Derice gave his time. Presumably, Sanka gave up smoking…Every athlete, their coach, and their loved ones all sacrificed to make the dream a reality.

Life Lesson #10: Don’t let others’ expectations define you

Junior’s father wanted him to give up trying to be an Olympian and become a lawyer. Yet, with some encouragement from his teammate, Yul Brenner, Junior gained the courage to be his own man and stood up to his father. He decided to live life by his own expectations, and not those of others.

Life Lesson #11: Practice positive self-talk

At a particularly low point for Junior, Yul teaches Junior the power of self-talk. He encourages him to look into a mirror and say “I see pride. I see power. I see a bad ass who won’t take no lip from nobody!”
Not long after this speech, Junior stands up to the bullying Swiss team and asserts himself as an equal.

Life Lesson 12: Don’t be afraid to be different (and to be yourself!)

The Jamaican team certainly has their own style, but at times Derice is so obsessed with what the Swiss team is doing, that he forgets his roots. Sanka calls him out on this and says, “if we walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican, and IS Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican.

Life Lesson 13: Don’t make happiness contingent on anything outside of yourself (even a
gold medal)

When asked by Derice why he cheated in the past, Coach Blitzer responses: “A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” Happiness and pride in oneself can only come from within, through giving it your all and doing the best you can by your own measurements, not by someone else’s.

Life Lesson 14: Snap judgments can be very wrong

Just because the world had never seen four Jamaican, black men competing in Olympic-level bobsledding, does not mean that they “shouldn’t” be competing. For everyone who assumed the team would fail based on the team’s race and their misguided stereotypes, the “Cool Runnings’ team proved them all wrong!

An actual picture of the athletes from the first ever Jamaican Bobsled Team

“Peace be the journey”

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