Have you ever set a goal and struggled to achieve it? Well, the story of Rocky played and written by Sylvester Stallone may inspire you and offer some important lessons in goal achievement. The story behind Rocky is as fascinating as the movie. Many people do not know the lengths that Sylvester Stallone went through to make the movie.  It is nothing short of remarkable and a testament to his success.

Stallone had grown up wanting to become an actor, he believed in the craft and felt that through movies and storytelling he could inspire others.  Despite wanting to become an actor, he was disadvantaged by his looks and speech, impacted by him being pulled out by forceps at birth. In a career where image can define success, it would have been easy for Stallone to give up, yet instead he persisted. Stallone had been to many auditions and failed, receiving repeated knock backs. He was criticised for how he spoke, how he looked, and rejected over 1500 times from auditions.

Prior to Rocky, Stallone had only one movie appearance, lasting 20 seconds. To get this role, he auditioned and was knocked back, yet refused to go home. He waited throughout the night and into the morning, pleading with the director the next day when the office opened. By this stage he was broke, struggling to eat and experiencing issues in his marriage. His refusal to gain any other employment took a strain on his marriage as he dedicated all his time to acting and fulfilling this dream. His wife struggled to understand this and they regularly fought.

One day, freezing cold, due to being unable to afford heating, Stallone went to the local library for warmth. While in the library, he started reading the works of some the great authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe. In reading this work he realised the power of writing and the impact that it has on people. He decided that he would attempt to write his own scripts and screenplays. In between his acting auditions he started to write scripts. Initially he did not have success, but eventually he sold his first script for the movie Paradise Alley.  He sold the script to this movie for a mere $100. Although this money was not a lot at the time, it seemed like a small fortune after all his struggles. Selling his first script assured Stallone that he was on the correct path and he continued to write. Yet despite believing he was on the right track, his financial woes continued, unable to afford basic food. He made a drastic choice and decided to sell his wife’s jewellery. This decision impacted his relationship immediately and led to a permanent divide between he and his wife. On the verge of divorce, with no career, struggling to eat and to pay rent, he realised he had only one choice. He had to sell the only remaining thing in his life that gave him happiness, his dog. He went down to a local liquor store and stood on the corner trying to sell his dog for $50. He sold his dog for $25 after a man bargained him down. At this point, he felt broken and defeated, returning home and bursting into tears.

Two weeks after this, Stallone developed an idea to write a script inspired by a boxing match he had watched between Mohammed Ali and Chuck Wepner. In this fight, Wepner was the underdog who kept coming at Ali and would simply not lie down. Moved by this fight, Stallone started writing, skipping sleep and continuing for 20 hours straight before he stopped. The entire Rocky script was written in that 20 hours.  Excited by his work, he then started meeting with agents, trying to sell his script. The initial feedback was poor with many agents ridiculing the script. After persevering, Stallone finally found an agent who loved the script. They agency wanted his work and offered him $125,000 for the script. Stallone was overwhelmed at the offer, but had one contingency for parting ways with his work; he was to be the actor who played Rocky. The agents were stunned and quickly dismissed him as a writer who could not act. Stallone fought his case, arguing to be the actor in the movie, believing that only he truly understood how to play the character. The agency refused to budge so Stallone left. By this point he had no money, he was desperate, but knew if he relented that his dream would be over.

A few weeks later the agency called him, offering him $250,000 for the script without him as the actor. Stallone again declined, remaining firm on his stance to play Rocky. The agency wanting the script increased their offer to $325,000. Stallone continued to refuse the money, wanting his role in the movie. Finally, the agency compromised, offering him the role to play Rocky Balboa and the sum of $35,000 for the script.

Stallone was overwhelmed with excitement when offered the role and finally received some reward for all his hard work. Yet, instead of rushing out, spending his money and celebrating, he returned and stood outside the liquor store where he sold his dog. He stood there for 3 days straight hoping to buy back his best friend. Eventually, the man walked past with his dog. Stallone explained to the man his situation at the time of selling his dog and begged the man to sell it back to him. He offered the man $100 for the dog, but the man declined, stating that it was now his dog and he was not selling it. Stallone increased his price to $500, yet the man again refused. He went to $1000 and again no result. Refusing to leave without his dog, Stallone kept going, finally reaching a deal with the man. He got his dog back for $15,000 and by offering the man a cameo appearance in Rocky. Both Stallone’s dog and the man are featured in the movie.

There are 5 lessons that we can take away from Stallone’s struggles and achievements. These lessons can be broadly applied to achieving any goals.

1. Outcome – It is hard to achieve a goal or mission if you are not clear on your outcome. You must know your desired outcome. Stallone had a clear outcome that he was pursuing, whether it was being an actor or getting his dog back. Be clear on what you want and why it is important to you, then start to align both your time and choices to fit with your goals. The best goals are those that have intrinsic meaning, they carry significance for us personally, rather than being externally driven. What outcome, mission or goals are you really seeking for yourself?

2. Perseverance – Goals take commitment. Anything that is worth pursuing takes time and patience. Often the journey is just as important as the outcome. Goals can be achieved in multiple ways and there is always a means if you are committed. You may just have to change your approach and strategy on a number of occasions, so persevere and be open to trying new avenues. Are you truly persevering and being dedicated to achieving your goals?

3. Sacrifice – Stallone’s journey required him to make big sacrifices. These included, food, comfort, belongings, money, and his dog. We can’t have everything in our lives and we must prioritise our energy and resources to what matters. Prioritise the basics and disregard anything that does not help you achieve your goals. What sacrifices can you make to pursue your goals?

4. Resilience – Don’t give up when you fail to see results or get setbacks. While at times it may feel like you are miles away from achieving your goals, things can change very quickly. How you respond in testing times will be vital to your success. If you are able to take a setback, learn, grow and then continue on, then you will reach your desired destination.

5. Investment – Stallone invested so much into Rocky that he gave himself no choice but to succeed. He raised the stakes so high that his only option was to continue to pursue his goals as he had nothing else left in his life. Be prepared to invest your time, energy, money, and lifestyle in pursuit of your mission or goals. If you do not completely invest then you are holding something back, reducing your chances of achievement. What are you prepared to stake to achieve your goals?

person jumpingKnow your outcome, persevere, invest, be prepared to sacrifice and remain resilient. 


To hear Stallone discuss his journey to make Rocky, you can click the link: The Rocky Story.