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Fighting to showcase your gift

August 15, 2016

If you read last week’s article then you do know that this month we are focusing on the gifts. Everyone has a gift they were sent to this world with; some have one others have many but regardless of the number of gifts one has, the bottom line is that each one of us was sent to this world with the a gift. The problem is that not many people have taken the time or the effort to find out what their gift is. As a result, many people die before activating the gifts in them, not because they didn’t have any, but because they didn’t want to do whatever it takes to make their gifts work for them.

No wonder my favorite motivational speaker always says that, “The graveyard is the richest place on earth because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream”

Today I want us to answer this question: what should one do in order to activate their gift and live their dream? The answer is simple yet not so simple: Do whatever it takes even when things do look like they are impossible and un-doable.

To illustrate this answer, I would like us to look at the life of one very inspiring person whose story should cause everyone - even those who have given up on their dreams - to wake up and start doing whatever is necessary to put their gifts into work in order to achieve their dream.  My reference today is the once not famous Sylvester Stallone. Here below is his story…

Not a lot of people know this, but due to complications during labor, the lower left side of Sylvester Stallone's face is paralyzed, including parts of his tongue, lip and chin. This incident at birth is the cause of his trademark snarling look and his slurred manner of speaking.

For the first five years of his life, Sylvester Stallone lived in an area of New York known as Hell's Kitchen. He bounced from one foster home to another while his parents fought and squabbled endlessly in a bad marriage. Although he was eventually reunited with them, his troubled past and his oddly paralyzed face made him an outcast among his classmates. He often received suspensions for his frequent fights, poor grades, and behavior problems.

His adult life was just as difficult. Hard times and a lack of income resulted in the actor getting evicted from his apartment. As a result he was forced to live on the streets for close to three weeks. Eventually he came across a casting call for a soft core pornography film; out of desperation he attended the casting call. For two days of filming, the actor received $200.

According to Stallone "it was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end, the very end of my rope". After getting back on his feet he was eventually able to attend college. However, deciding this path (college) was not for him, he left before graduation and moved to New York to pursue an acting career.

He tried out for nearly each and every casting call he could, and contacted as many casting agents as he could find, with no victory. After numerous failed attempts he made the decision to try his hand at writing various screenplays.

After numerous failed attempts he found himself broke once again. In an act of desperation he waited outside of a local liquor store asking people if they would buy his dog; his closest and best friend. In the end someone bought his dog for roughly $50. Stallone was extremely devastated that his life had come to that point.

With options few and far between he began to run out of money. By now he was desperate to get a job but he still was not ready to settle on just any job. He wanted to be an actor and that was what he had his mind set on.

One day as Stallone walked the cold streets of New York City he wandered into the local library to warm up. While he browsed through the many books he discovered some of the best classics by many famous writers, which inspired him to work harder on his screenplays and various writings.

In 1975, Stallone saw the Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner fight. That night Stallone went home, and in three days he had written the script for Rocky. He tried to sell the script with the intention of playing the lead role. However, months passed with enormous rejections from many producers, until eventually someone loved it and they agreed to do the movie.

As poor as he was, Stallone turned down the great sums of money he was offered because he insisted that he must play the lead role in the film. Studios were not willing to cast him in this role because he was a complete unknown, and they wanted a well-known star. They told him he was not an actor but a writer.

There is a story that Stallone had been offered more than a hundred thousand dollars for his script as long as someone else could take the lead role, but he refused. He was so sure in his heart that this part was meant for him, and him alone. He refused to compromise.

Finally the studio agreed to allow Stallone to proceed with the film, provided that it was made on a shoestring budget. Stallone accepted the deal and used part of his money to go back to the liquor store and get his dog back.

As you all probably know, Rocky became a worldwide commercial success and Oscar winner. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards in all, and went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing. The sequel, Rocky II was released a few years later and also became a major success. The film series has grossed more than $1.25 billion at the worldwide box office.

You will agree with me that this is a great and inspiring story, isn’t it? Well, guess what, your story can have a similar ending, but only if you make that decision to do whatever it takes to live your dream. So, what are some of the takeaways we derive from this real life story? What exactly made Stallone the success he is today? I have shared the things that stood out for me as I was reading this story as follows:

He knew what his gift was – from this story, we see that all he wanted was to act and write. Even though he may have done a few odd jobs here and there, his eyes never shifted from his goal, which was to act in the movie whose script he was writing. My question to you is, do you know what your gift is? If you don’t, then visit my blog and look out for last week’s article to see the steps you need to take in order to identify your gifts.

He was not ready to compromise what he believed in – even though he was desperately broke to the point of selling his dog in order for both of them to survive, he did not compromise what he believed in. He was offered a lot of money to sell the script he wrote about Rocky but he completely refused. If he had opted to take the money, today we might not know Rocky as we know him. So I ask you another question, How many times have you compromised your gift and by extension your dream because of accepting something lower than what you truly deserve?

He knew persistence pays – No matter how many times he was told NO, Stallone never gave up and never allowed his situation to cloud his mind to the point of compromising. He was not afraid to stand his ground until he got exactly what he wanted. How about you, are you ready to do the same, or are you one of those who give in at the sign of the slightest challenge? Do you have the guts to say NO to something that may look lucrative now, making that decision to persistently fight for the ultimate price, the OSCAR that is waiting for you when you achieve that dream your life was created for?

Patience is paramount when pursuing your dream - Sylvester Stallone faced enough challenging situations that could have made him totally give up. However, he held on to his dream patiently because he believed in himself enough to know that every day he was told NO, he was getting closer to his yes. Do you have the virtue of patience in you?  If you don’t, then you need to cultivate it pronto because without patience, you will never achieve anything. It takes time to pursue your dream. It takes patience to get to the top.

He never stopped sharpening his skills – we have read that he went to the library to read and in so doing, he was inspired to write even more. When was the last time you read a book relating to your chosen career path? When was the last time you enrolled in a class that would give you the skills you need to take you to the next level in your career? If all you have are your kindergarten certificates, then you are not really interested in moving to the next level. Invest in new ideas; invest in fresh knowledge; do whatever it takes to make sure your brain is updated with the latest updates in your chosen career path. It is funny how many people are willing to upgrade and update their phones, laptops and computers but when it comes to upgrading their minds, they don’t think it is necessary.  And you wonder why you are still on the same level 34 years later?

As I conclude this article today remember the question I asked earlier; what should one do in order to activate their gift and live their dream? Do what Stallone did; he knew what his gift was, he pursued his dream and always believed in himself and his vision, he never gave up but kept trying and trying until he made it. In other words, he was committed, persistent and focused. If you follow his example, very soon we will be celebrating you like the world celebrated him.

Sylvester Stallone is indeed one of the best demonstrations of how persistence can overcome all manner of obstacles with impossible odds.

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. ~ Maya Angelou

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 14th August, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

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