I haven’t posted in a while, which is unusual for me. Maybe this post will explain some of what I’ve been experiencing.
I recently stumbled upon this blog entry and an excerpt of a story about the history of Rocky …
One of the most inspiring stories regarding rejection and frustration is the story of Sylvester Stallone. Since he had been very young, Stallone had wanted to star in movies. He had had a difficult childhood and had grown up in Hell’s Kitchen, a rough neighborhood in New York City. He wanted to make movies because he felt that it was a way to inspire people about what they were capable of.
Stallone tried to get parts in movies and was rejected continually. He was told that he looked funny, that he talked out of the side of his mouth and sounded funny. Stallone’s voice and the way he looks have to do with his head being pulled out with forceps when he was born. The forceps severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone’s face, which caused his slurred speech and drooping lower lip. From a young age, Stallone was handicapped to some extent. He attended a high school for problem children and after graduating he enrolled in beauty school.
One of Stallone’s first feature films was a soft-core pornography movie called “Party at Kitty and Stud’s”, which Stallone did in 1970. He was paid $200 for two days work.
As he tried to advance in the acting field, Stallone was told ‘no’ by agents again and again. He was apparently thrown out of agency offices in New York more than 1,500 times. There were not even 1,500 agents in New York at the time, but Stallone had gone to many of the agents’ offices multiple times–even after being thrown out.
Stallone got his first job by going to an agent’s office and spending an entire night there. He arrived at 4:00 pm and the agent refused to see him. When the agent came back the next morning he saw that Stallone was still waiting there, and he gave him a job. Stallone’s first gig was playing a thug that got beaten up. Despite landing this small role and a few others, the aspiring actor still did not have money to eat, and he could not even afford to heat his apartment during the cold New York winter.
Stallone’s wife at the time kept telling him to go out and get a real job, something that did not involve acting; however, he refused to do so because he was afraid that if he took a normal job he would lose his hunger to succeed in acting. Stallone felt that this hunger gave him an edge, and made him stronger. Stallone and his wife would have one horrible fight after another because he was so broke.
One day Stallone went to the New York Public Library, where it was warm. He had no plans to read anything; he just wanted to escape the chill of his apartment. He stumbled onto a book by Edgar Allen Poe and started reading it. According to Stallone, reading Poe’s work inspired him right then and there to become a writer. Stallone believes that Poe helped him learn to emotionally influence others by not focusing on himself, but by looking at people and the world around him.
Stallone went on to write a movie script called Paradise Alley, which he sold for only $100. Meanwhile, he was so broke that he sold his wife’s jewelry, which officially ended their relationship. The only thing that Stallone had had left at this point in his life was his dog. He loved his dog for the unconditional love it provided him, even though he had no money; this was more than Stallone could say for his wife at the time.
Stallone one day stood in front of a liquor store, trying to sell his dog. He eventually located a man who wanted to make the purchase. Stallone had hoped to sell the dog for $50, but the buyer refused to pay this much and only offered $25. Stallone sold the dog at the lower price, and walked away crying. According to Stallone, this was the lowest point in his life.
A few weeks later Stallone watched Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. The fight inspired Stallone. That evening Stallone went home and, in three short days, he wrote the script for Rocky. Stallone tried to sell the script and was rejected numerous times. Finally, he found two men, Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, who really liked the script. They offered him $125,000; but Stallone refused and stated that he would only accept this money if he could star in the movie. The producers did not want Stallone to star in the movie because he was an unknown actor. A couple of weeks later they offered him $250,000 if he would not star in the movie, and once again he refused. Later the producers offered Stallone $325,000, and he turned this down as well. Stallone felt that Rocky was his story and that it was incredibly important for him to play the lead role.
Eventually, the producers offered him $35,000 and allowed him to play the part in the movie. They would also give Stallone a share of the profits. Ultimately the movie cost $1,000,000 to make and ended up grossing over $200,000,000–and winning an Oscar. Stallone said that right before he received the Oscar, he had read every rejection he had ever received and all of the negative things that people had ever said about him, because he had written it all down. One of my favorite quotes is from Stallone: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”
Incredibly, the first thing Stallone did when he received the $35,000 was go immediately to the liquor store, hoping to get his dog back. He stood in front of the liquor store for three days waiting for the man to appear. Stallone first offered $100 and then more and more money until he offered to pay $1,000. The man still refused to sell the dog back. Finally, Stallone offered the man $15,000 of the $35,000 he received, and he got his dog back. The dog that is featured in Rocky is Stallone’s dog.
There is nothing wrong with failing. Stallone failed many times early on, and has since left a legacy of one of the most inspiring and fantastic movies ever written and produced. If you do not succeed the first time, just look at what went wrong and change it. Frustration and rejection make you stronger. Doing something and failing is better than doing nothing. At least by trying you will learn a lesson. Learning a lesson is among the most valuable experiences you can have.
Rejection is a numbers game. The more you are rejected, the closer you are to success. Let the law of averages work on your behalf, and never give up what you are doing. You need to push through in order to succeed, and to not worry about all the no(s) you are receiving. Each no will bring you closer to a yes. Put your emotions and negative feelings about being rejected behind you.
Life is often frustrating, and the road to success is also often frustrating. Your ability to handle this frustration and rejection, however, will ultimately determine the level of success you will experience. Imagine if Stallone had stopped early on when he experienced frustration and rejection.
Work through frustration and rejection, and never stop moving forward.
I came to Paris with the intention of experiencing three things mentioned in my blog a year ago:
1) The Learning!
I’ve learned that education has to be relevant. Taking and accepting what you’re given is usually not going to lead to best results or passion-driven work. Focus is important. I’m definitely a big-picture person, qualitative over quantitative, and a lover not a worker.
I think I’ve caught my big break. That transition from Early Childhood and Life to Early Career (for all those Wikiheads :p) is definitely in motion, as I’m starting to work collaboratively on a consulting project with one of the world’s leading experts in international technology transfer and business intelligence.
Still plan to hold down those transcript marks. But laying the foundations for my global network takes precedence.
2) The Opportunities!
Bringing back that Stallone article. My obsessive compulsion towards internship applications definitely has been apparent during my first two months here. Applying to 1oo+ online/on-campus applications, receiving 75 rejection letters to date (with 2-3 on average arriving in my inbox daily), and receiving 2 offers in London and Paris respectively. It’s been good times ~!
3) The City!
After waiting in line for an hour, chugging a bottle of JD with some new Parisian friends, and getting inadvertently bare-maced due to crowd control I finally got to see Skrillex perform for the first time at a Paris Nightclub.
Walking out of the club at 5AM with more energy than when I walked in, I couldn’t help but soak in the city atmosphere. Pubs were still open. I could make out new friendships being made on restaurant patios over the obligatory Parisian smoke, and of course hook-ups were still being devised. It’s interesting to think of the lost-time in N. American culture by closing off these late night “connections”.
Truth be told. I don’t think it’s Paris that particularly appeals to me, but moreso the change of scenery. If all goes to plan, Ill be back in July and stay til December.
This exchange is just an appetizer.
I’m hungry and it ain’t for food.
James Avendano studied at ESCP Europe’s Master in Management program on exchange in Spring 2011 and has written a series of guest posts here. Check him out on Twitter or LinkedIn.