What I learnt from Sylvester Stallone

| Aug 25, 2010 | comment 6 Comments
This post is by Nagi Salloum, founder of Loomni, a Dubai based knowledge sharing & educational platform.

There’s more depth to Sylvester Stallone’s story than what the movies that he starred in would let you think.

Sly knew what he wanted to do in his life since he was very young: he wanted to be in the movie business. But having little acting experience, a partially paralyzed face, and a slurry speech, he was turned down by hundreds of agent offices. To get one of his first acting jobs, he literally stayed overnight in one of the agents offices. After that nothing more came out for a while. He kept moving forward, rejection after rejection. Meanwhile he was starving, married, broke, jobless and desperate. He refused to get a regular job, to avoid being caught up in the rat race, to avoid being seduced with the comfort of a salary. He wanted to remain hungry for achieving his dreams.

He finally realized it wasn’t working, he changed his approach, he decided to start writing. He wrote a bunch of screenplays, but still, rejection after rejection, he kept trying until he sold 1 screenplay for 100$ (Paradise Alley that was shot a few years later). He kept going. At that time, he barely had 50$ on him. He was so broke he couldn’t even feed his dog anymore. He went to a liquor store and sold his dog for 25$. He was so attached to his dog that he went out of the liquor store and wept like a kid. It was the lowest point of his life.

Few weeks later, as he was watching a fight for Mohammad Ali, Rocky’s idea hit him. As soon as the fight was over, he started writing the story for several straight hours. He knew he would make something out of it. He went back to agents and tried to sell it. Again, agents rejected the story claiming it is predictable and stupid. Except for 1 agency which believed in it. They offered him 125,000$ for his script. He told them he would accept the deal at the condition of starring in it as Rocky. They refused to give him the role because of his looks and his lack of experience, so he walked away. They called him few weeks later offering him 250,000$ not to act in the movie. He turned it down. They came back with 325,000$ with the same condition (remember this guy was broke, and jobless). He refused, he wanted the role, he wanted to be a movie star. They finally compromised and gave him 35,000$ claiming that without any real acting experience on the big screen, he would be big risk on the movie. (The first thing he does is go back to that liquor store, waiting for 3 days until his dog owner would show up to buy back his dog. The guy ended up negotiating for 15,000$ for the dog and a role in Rocky).

Rocky ended up grossing $200 Million, receiving 10 Academy Awards nomination, winning 3. Sylvester Stallone career took off. It is said his net worth is around $500M.

Although the details of Sly’s story might have been embellished a bit over the years by the actor’s PR people, but still, I found Sly’s perseverance inspirational and very similar to the perseverance needed by young startup founders. Something I also realized over the years is that true persistence pays at the end no matter how impossible your obstacles might seem, that focusing on the outcome and overcoming fear of the uncertain is probably one the most important ingredient in reaching massive success.

Keep hungry, keep pushing, keep hopeful.

Sly knew he would be a superstar one day. Do you know what you want to be?


You can read all my posts on: nagi.loomni.com

  • Basheir Hashim

    Excellent article, especially the closing part. I Agree; despite the fact that such stories are often dramatized by PR agencies, it is hard to question the perseverance that is at the heart of such experiences.

  • http://www.tayiba.com Rachid Lakhal

    Encouraging story. I would add one major factor for a young Muslim entrepreneur: rely on Allah, then persevere.

  • Zakaria

    Tks a lot !!! very inspiring

  • http://twitter.com/highandwild Ahsan Ali

    Lovely story. I didn’t know this about Sly/Rocky!

  • Jonathan Andreas


    I suspect that no one was chatting on this anymore but I was wondering if anyone knew if any of the companies that have presented at Dubai Democamp have gained any financing.

  • http://fail92fail.wordpress.com Hayk

    As Steve Jobs said, “keep hungry, keep foolish,” in his seminar speech at Stanford quoting the now infamous magazine.

    Keep on looking if not found yet, and try new things, all the time. 

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