Today I read a very inspirational story about Sylvester Stallone’s early career, which just goes to show that we need to keep working toward our goals even if the world tells us we are not a success.
Stallone’s parents divorced when he was 9 and he lived with his mother in Philadelphia where he graduated from high school. Due to an improper use of forceps by Stallone’s obstetrician, the left side of his face was paralyzed at birth, giving him slurred speech. He had big dreams of being an actor, and when he graduated from high school he moved to New York to follow that dream, taking with him his only friend, Butkus the Bull Mastiff. He did several jobs, mostly because he was near starvation or a life of crime, but nothing panned out and at one point he lived for three weeks in a bus terminal. Sadly, when he was at his most destitute, he sold Butkus for $25 to a trainer.
At some point he saw a Mohammad Ali fight on television and in 20 hours wrote the screenplay for Rocky. With $50 to his name, he peddled the screenplay around until Robert Chertoff and Irwin Winkler took notice and offered him $150,000 for the script. However, they would not allow him to star in the film, so he turned them down. A few weeks later, they came back to him with an offer of $350,000 and he turned them down again because they would not let him play Rocky. A few weeks after that, they made him an offer of $35,000 for the script and gave in to let him play the title role. He accepted, and proceeded to spend $15,000 of his newfound windfall to search for and buy back his best friend Butkus.
Of course, the movie grossed $200 million and won three Oscars, and the rest is history, but there is a scene in the last Rocky film Rocky Balboa that really stands out to me. As a parent, I want the best for my kids, and sometimes I get down or they get down and we have this moment with each other. In the scene below, Rocky’s son is being reprimanded by his boss because he is late to work and Rocky has come to visit his son. The following speech is priceless, and born out of (I feel) that time when Stallone was living in that bus station. Watch it and apply it to your life as a writer, and it will be worth more to you that anything else I could write in this post.