Life has a way of buffeting you about, like you’re on a stormy sea. And that stormy sea can often disorient you, and knock you way off course, and daze you so much that you don’t even consider getting back on course until the storm eases.
You may have decided in your youth that you were going to be a famous, award-winning actor. So, to make this dream come true, you attend acting classes, study drama, join a local theatre group, and embrace every opportunity to act that comes your way. You may head to Los Angeles to break into the film industry like all those Hollywood icons you look up to.
And after several years of going on audition after audition, and not even getting a hint of a part in even the most random, low-budget film, you wonder if perhaps this acting thing might not work out. You question your ability. You compare yourself to all the icons whose ranks you desperately desire to join. And you find that you come up short in almost every way. You’re no Al Pacino or Meryl Streep. And in fact, you’ve been told several times on auditions that acting isn’t for you, and that you should probably try something else. You work in a café, barely make enough money to pay your rent, and all your efforts to become a successful actor have amounted to exactly nothing.
What should you do? Should you give up on this dream and dream another one?
This is the crucial point. And it is a point which separates those who succeed from those who fail, those who achieve their dreams, and those who don’t.
I always tell my clients about Sylvester Stallone. This man knew what he wanted, and he pretty much lost everything in order to get it. He wanted to be a successful actor just like in our example, but things just weren’t working out for him. He faced rejection after rejection, was told over and over that he just wasn’t right for the movies, and that he should pick another career! But he wouldn’t give up. He was rejected over a thousand times in his quest to succeed, and still he kept going, meeting with virtually no success.
But here’s the kicker in his story. He did, in fact, shift directions. He didn’t do it purposely or with any great game plan in mind. In fact, he was at what he describes as his lowest point, having had to sell his dog, his best friend, as he could no longer afford to feed him.
It was at this point when he saw a fight between Muhammad Ali, and the unknown Chuck Wepner. Wepner actually went the distance with Ali, which was something no one expected. Seeing this inspired Stallone, who began to write furiously.
Not too long after that, the film script for Rocky was finished. This, Stallone reasoned, had to be his ticket to success as an actor. He would play Rocky! But of course, no one wanted to know. Everyone he tried to sell the script to thought it was a silly idea, overly sentimental, and that no one would want to watch it.
Undaunted, Stallone continued. He simply refused to give up. He finally came across someone who wanted to make the film, but they did not want him to play the part of Rocky as he was not an accomplished actor. They offered him a large amount of money, which he turned down, despite the fact that he had no money. Finally, they agreed to his terms, offered him far less money, and made the picture. The rest is history.
Two crucial things happened in Stallone’s success story, and they are why you know who he is today. Firstly, he was absolutely unwilling to give up. Had he given up after 20 or 30 or 300 rejections and listened to the naysayers, he would never have become the star he is today. Secondly, he changed direction. Remember, his dream was to become an actor. But he turned to writing in order to accomplish it. He was open to the idea, albeit perhaps subconsciously, that his dream could come true via a different route. Had he not written that script and been so determined to play the part of Rocky, again, he may never have made it as an actor.