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|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
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Sylvester "Sly" Stallone
ACTOR, WRITER, ACADEMY AWARD WINNER
Sly's Journey: COMPLICATIONS AT BIRTH -> BULLIED -> #1 FILMS ACROSS FIVE DECADES
It is easy to be a spectator and root for the underdog. But it is much more difficult to be the one in the ring, fighting for your life and trying to overcome the competition. In my opinion, that is when true heroes are born. With your back against the wall, sometimes you just have to dig deep to fight your way out. We celebrate these underdogs, and are unbelievably excited to witness the unexpected victories. The heart and soul of the underdog is one paved with hard-work, dedication, and an endless amount of determination to overcome the obstacles and get it done.
One of the greatest underdogs of our time, Sylvester Stallone, reminds us, "We're all underdogs in our own way, but there's a little Rocky in all of us." A common thread trait observed with Sly is his quality of pushing through despite being an underdog.
When it was released in 1976, the iconic film Rocky and its message of overcoming the odds deeply resonated with me. I was a typical sixteen-year-old struggling with school and low self-esteem. It seemed like all my peers outperformed me at almost everything. I readily identified with the film's title character, Rocky, who was a million-to-one shot.
The music, the training scenes, and Rocky's struggles captivated me — I even started eating raw eggs before working out! I figured if it was good enough for Rocky, it was good enough for me.
Common wisdom says you should never meet your idols, because they can't help but disappoint you. But when I scored the opportunity to meet Sly Stallone, I found that he not only lived up to my personal hopes, he exceeded them. Of course, just about anyone would enjoy meeting a Hollywood luminary like Sylvester Stallone, but beyond that I enjoyed hearing Sly's well-thought-out answers to my interview questions. I deeply appreciate the wisdom he shared with me, and I feel honored to pass it along to others.
The "Italian Stallion" was born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone in 1946 in New York's gritty Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. His extraordinary career as an actor, filmmaker, screenwriter, and film director is the stuff legends are made of.
Sly's two best-known action heroes — boxer Rocky Balboa (Rocky, 1976) and Vietnam Green Beret veteran John Rambo (First Blood, 1982) — were his own creations. He was the writer or screenwriter for those incredibly triumphant films. The Rocky and Rambo franchises are among the most successful in Hollywood history. Along with several other films, they've earned close to $3 billion in box office sales.
From the beginning, Sly faced challenges. Complications and the misuse of forceps during his birth accidentally severed a nerve that caused paralysis in his face. As a result, part of the lower left side of his face is paralyzed — including parts of his lip, tongue, and chin.
Like others who have tried to break into the entertainment industry, Sly soon found out there are overwhelming odds against making it in Hollywood. He held down plenty of odd jobs — from being a hairdresser in his family's business, to cleaning out lion cages at Central Park Zoo, and working on the Philadelphia waterfront. He said his first apartment was a mere eight feet by nine feet.
He was bullied as a youngster, but those negative experiences motivated him to take up bodybuilding. As the legend goes, he couldn't afford proper weightlifting equipment, so he attached cinderblocks to a pole as substitute barbells. As underdog from the start, he wasn't going to let anything stop him!
Sly certainly paid his dues. While living in New York with barely fifty dollars to his name, he sold an original movie script, Paradise Alley, for a hundred bucks. Years later after Rocky's success, he was able to direct and star in the film, which went on to gross over seven million dollars at the box office.
But long before his Hollywood career, Sly had his first starring role in a soft-core porn film. He was paid two hundred dollars for two days' work. He said he did the film out of sheer desperation — he was homeless after being evicted from his apartment. When he saw the casting notice for the film, he had been sleeping in the New York City Port Authority bus station for three weeks. In Sly's own words: "It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end — the very end — of my rope."
Over the next five years, Sly landed several minor movie and TV roles. Then, one day in 1975, inspiration struck. On March 24, Stallone watched the bloody fifteen-round fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. The epic battle inspired him, and the idea of Rocky was born that night. Sly went home directly, and within three days he completed the story's first draft.
The script looked promising, but the movie studios wanted a well-established actor for the title role. They wanted a star like Burt Reynolds, James Caan, or Ryan O'Neal — they all were in their heyday, and any of them would be a big draw at the box office. Sly, on the other hand, was relatively unknown. But he had a dream that he simply wouldn't give up on. He was offered $25K for the script — then $50K, $150K, and finally over $300K! But Sly would have nothing to do with it. He wanted to play the part, and he wasn't about to give up on himself. He stood his ground despite the fact that he had less than $ 100 to his name, a pregnant wife, and a dog named Butkus. (Yes, that was Sly's real dog in the movie.)
Later, he told an interviewer, "I never would have sold it. I told my wife that I'd rather bury it in the backyard and let the caterpillars play Rocky. I would have hated myself for selling out."
In the end Sly accepted less money — but he would play the role of Rocky Balboa, and he played it like no one else could.
Fast forward thirty years after Rocky was first shown on the silver screen: MGM Studios contacted my company to commission one of our artists to create artwork for the thirtieth-anniversary release of the film. We had done business with MGM executives before, so we had a good track record. I was ecstatic to be involved with the Rocky brand in any way.
The first thing I did was to call Joe Petruccio, an accomplished artist who understands how to capture the essence and inspiration of a legend like Rocky. Over the years we have published Joe's art under license agreements with Elvis Presley Enterprises, Muhammad Ali Enterprises, and many others.
Joe really knocked it out of the ballpark with this assignment. He not only captured all the key scenes, but his work truly embodied the persona and emotion, true to the spirit of Rocky. Once we developed a comprehensive marketing program, we were off to the races.
From the beginning MGM cautioned us that Sly had final approval of the artwork, but that our company would have limited direct contact with him. I convinced the studio that the more we could involve Sly, the better our chances for success. They arranged for me to meet with him and discuss the program. Our first meeting took place in a very unassuming office. Sly was editing the then soon-to-be-released film Rocky Balboa. We hit it off right away — he was gracious and generous, even letting me hold the original Rocky championship belt.
He loved our artwork and the marketing plan, and was very impressed with what we had in mind for its release to the public. We sat down, and I asked him his thoughts on dealing with life's challenges and obstacles.
It soon became obvious that at this point in his incredibly successful career Sly has little interest in working for the money. He's had more fame than most of us would ever dream of having. He simply loves what he does. I inquired, "What motivates you? What do you do when adversity strikes? How do you stay so focused?" He took his time to respond and was thoroughly generous with his insights.
"Most people don't understand how powerful they can be. The human body is an amazing thing. If people can learn to push themselves, there's no limit to how far they can go to become the best. We all need to be competitors. I love to compete; I always have and I always will."
His humility and honesty struck me as he contemplated the future:
"One day somebody is going to try and take my spot, and I guess that may happen. But until then, I plan on doing all I need to do to be the best I can."
The next time I saw Sly was during the press junket for Rocky Balboa. He signed all the artwork we created. It was fantastic. He even wanted a couple of pieces for his home, and I gladly gave them to him. My wife Brooke and I were invited to the red carpet for the film's premier. Not only did we hang out with Sly, but with Burt Young — good old "Paulie" — as well. Sly gave a very uplifting speech, helping the crowd see the film as more than a story about a fighter. Rather, it was about a man who still had something left — who still had something in his tank. A lot of people reach a certain age and think it's over, he explained. But it's not over until you say it's over.
If you have not already seen Rocky Balboa, please do. It will inspire you with faith in the fact that "it ain't over till it's over" for any of us. In the film, Rocky sums it up this way: "Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward — how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"
Soon after the premier festivities, Sly invited me to his office to sign more art. He was busy editing the 2008 version of Rambo, and we continued our conversation about competing: "Way back when, I knew I wanted to get to a better place, so I was never afraid of rejection. I figured that's just the way it was — that it's part of life."
Sly's many quotes over the years keep on inspiring the masses: "Once in one's life, for one mortal moment, one must make a grab for immortality; if not, one has not lived. I believe there's an inner power that makes winners or losers. The winners are the ones who really listen to the truth of their hearts. When you're scared, when you're hanging on, when life is hurting you, then you're going to see what you're really made of. For every guy, there is an opportunity to be a lot better than he thought he could be. We can't all be the star of the team, but we can be a star in our life."
My wife Brooke and I were invited to a party at Prince's house, and Sly was there. When he spoke to me about the possibility of the next Rocky, it almost felt like he was pitching me the idea. Maybe he was. He described Rocky seeing a street light out in the old neighborhood and being inspired to run for political office and get things fixed. It was great to see how his mind was working and the enthusiasm he had for his beloved character.
Sly went out of his way to thank me for putting together the art program for the thirtieth anniversary of Rocky. "You guys really did a great job," he said. From my perspective, it was pretty impressive to meet such an iconic, yet humble person. He loves movies, art, and certainly boxing. Although never a professional boxer, Stallone was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2011.
Stallone and his iconic Rocky character will be hitting the big screen again late in 2015 with Creed, a movie produced by Sly that tells the story of the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson Creed, traveling to Philadelphia, where he meets Rocky Balboa and requests that the elder boxer train him. Plans are also underway for a fifth Rambo movie to be released – Rambo: Final Blood.
Early in his career, Sylvester Stallone bet on himself and won. He has created a legacy of inspiration for future generations to come. But maybe most important, he has shown us all that if you believe in yourself, being the underdog is not always the worst thing in the world.
SLY'S EMPOWERING THOUGHT: "Until you start believing in yourself, you ain't gonna have a life."
DO IT DAILY:
* Embrace Life's Obstacles. Life will throw punches at you and sometimes knock you down. Learn to take the hit, but more importantly, learn to get back up and keep punching every single day!
* Believe in the Underdog. There will be times when each of us is the underdog. The odds may not be in your favor, and the onlookers will expect you to fall short. But it's your choice and your attitude that will be the difference between winning and losing in the ring of life.CHAPTER 2
FOX NEWS, BEST SELLING AUTHOR
SCHOOLTEACHER -> THE O'REILLY FACTOR -> EMMY AWARD WINNER
The world thirsts for straightforward people. You know, the type of folks with great character and morals that will stand up and stay true, unwilling and even unable to do anything but tell it like it is. Having the ability to be straightforward is one of the most coveted and necessary traits for each of us to possess. So much is forgiven and forgotten with just a little bit of sincerity. It is the lies and cover-ups that are deal breakers. For Bill O'Reilly, being viewed as straightforward has been a defining quality on both a personal and professional level. And that quality has launched a career that has spanned decades.
Whichever way you lean politically, it's not difficult to recognize Bill O'Reilly's success as a talk show host, journalist, five-time bestselling author, and two-time Emmy Award winner. Bill O'Reilly, a registered independent and self-described "traditionalist," hosts The O'Reilly Factor, the most-watched cable news show for more than fourteen years. It is broadcast in more than thirty countries worldwide and has amassed an audience of loyal viewers numbering in the millions. It really doesn't matter which side of the issue you fall on, many Americans respect Bill's straightforward approach.
While Bill has gained amazing notoriety and respect, he still does have his share of critics and naysayers. His fiery, argumentative style and his outspoken, opinionated conclusions draw a lot of heat from those who oppose his views. In this day and age, the Internet provides plenty of forums (blogs, social media, and so on) through which his detractors can express their counter-arguments. But all too often these "keyboard warriors" cross the line from expressing different views and go on the attack with venom and hatred. In his bestselling book, Culture Warrior, Bill writes: "I am routinely threatened with physical harm and loathed by many. Early in my career it was tough, but now we are established. We have a brand, and criticism does not bother me anymore — I have a job to do."
Bill's advice should come in handy for all of us during our own trying situations. "At times you have to fight, no way around it. At some point every one of us is confronted with danger or injustice. How we choose to combat that challenge is often life-defining." But for Bill, the approach has always been head on and with integrity, valuing his honest assessment and opinion.
Bill has shown over the years that he has tremendous resilience, and his relentless stamina offers invaluable insights we all can learn from. During our interview, I quickly saw his very straightforward and focused style.
I learned that Bill grew up just a few minutes from my old neighborhood on Long Island, New York. On his rise to the top — from high school history teacher to local news broadcaster and anchor for the popular TV show Inside Edition — he has always been willing to put in the necessary work. That drive and dedication led him at age forty-six to earn his second master's degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
While attending Harvard, Bill worked on his game plan for The O'Reilly Factor, which was eventually picked up by the Fox News Channel. Bill's hard-driving interview style is "an attempt to bring honest information about complicated and important matters." Bill has interviewed hundreds of well-known people from a variety of fields — even U.S. Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. And, just before the 2014 Super Bowl, President Barack Obama.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Common Thread"
Copyright © 2016 Morgan James.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
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