Sharing a Stallone success story

Sharing someone else’s story that is being told by yet another person seems a bit redundant. The story got to me however, and I wanted to do something with it, so here we are. Besides, stories are meant to be told and shared anyway.

It’s about the starting years of Sylvester Stallone’s career, specifically how he kick-started it himself. You can listen to the whole story, being told by Tony Robbins, here:

You can listen to it and/or read the following:

In the seventies Sly Stallone was trying to make a name for himself in the movie business but kept failing, with his facial features and slightly slurred speech not helping either. Yet, the man was driven by an idea, with a clear goal in mind. He wanted to be in the movie business, period. To inspire people through that art-form. I wouldn’t settle for anything else. His approach was to visit agencies’ offices in New York in the hope of landing a job in movies through them. He got rejected around 1500 times, visiting most agencies more than once or twice. His perseverance got him little parts in some movies, yet he realised it wasn’t really working well enough and knew he had to change his approach.

+ Important side note, he was broke at the time. He had no money to pay for heating and barely enough to feed him and his wife. He kept getting pressured to get a regular job and when asked why he wouldn’t, he replied: “I knew if I got a regular job I’d lose my hunger, that it [acting] would only work if it was my only choice. That hunger was my only advantage.”

Sitting in the public library (for warmth) he came across work by Edgar Allen Poe, he started reading some and got incredibly inspired. It prompted him to become a writer. He wrote screenplays and eventually sold some for a few bucks as well. Far from enough to make a living, however. Still broke, he was forced to sell some of his stuff. After making the mistake of selling his wife’s jewelry and eventually spending that money as well, he reached a new low and stood outside a liquor store in an attempt to sell his beloved dog to strangers. Which he did.

“I managed to sell my best friend in the world for $25. I walked away and I cried.”

Two weeks later he was watching a boxing match on tv about a guy who kept getting knocked down (by Muhammed Ali) but kept getting up and attempting to fight back. This gave ol’ Sly an idea and he started writing. He wrote for 20 straight hours and only stopped when he finished writing the entire ‘Rocky’ movie. Excited, he tried to sell it to agents. Most of them wanted nothing to do with it and rejected it. Eventually he found a group of agents who were willing to give him $125.000 for it. Imagine being offered that amount of money when you’ve got absolutely nothing… The thing was though, Sly only wanted to complete the deal if he could star in it. I need to be Rocky he had said. The agents did not feel like investing such a large sum of money into an unknown ‘actor’, so they turned it down.  So did Sly, saying “If that’s what you believe then you don’t get my script.” and walked away.

Interestingly, a few weeks later, they called him back up and offered him $250.000 for the script and for him not to star in his own movie. He turned it down again. Next they offered him $325.000, which he turned down again. This is a man who has no money, at all, and is turning down $325.000. Why? Because he knew his purpose, and knew the outcome. Eventually they compromised and agreed to give him $35.000 plus the lead role in the movie, saying “We think it’ll bomb but at least we won’t have spent a lot of money on you.” They made the movie for around $1 million, which ended up grossing over $200 million and winning three Oscars. Prompting Sly to say:

“The best revenge is massive success.”

If, like me, you are now wondering: “But did he buy his dog back?!” Well, he went back to that liquor store and after a few days, found the guy and his dog. He offered him $100 to buy the dog back but the man wasn’t having any of it. Sly kept increasing the price – again, he knew the/his outcome – until the guy agreed, to the amount of $15.000(!), plus a part in the movie. The guy is actually in Rocky. How cool is that!?

“There’s always a way, if you’re committed.”

If there’s a moral in this story it’s that one. Take from the story what you will but remember that one. Sylvester Stallone knew the outcome of his actions, knew what he wanted to and where he wanted to be. He pursued it with a passion and changed his approach with every setback, rejection, speed-bump or disadvantage life had thrown at him. His hunger kept him going and look where it got him. Kudos to you, Mr. Stallone.


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