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Sylvester Stallone's Hero Journey | Create [write] the Life You Want

The Hero’s Journey is the repeated cycle of stepping out of your comfort zone, facing adversity, challenges, and even failure, and then bouncing back and overcoming those obstacles while transforming into a new, better version of yourself.

90% of the journey is tumultuous and ugly, but you have to go through it. You might not get there, but you will be better off than doing nothing.

Sylvester Stallone is one of my favorite actors, and he created one of my favorite movie franchises, Rocky, and its spin-off, Creed.

Each movie in both franchises gives you direct and in-depth access to The Hero’s Journey of Rocky Balboa and Adonis Creed, along with the journeys of the people they do life with in a way most movies don’t.

After watching his Netflix documentary, Sly, I realize that in many ways, Stallone simply wrote himself into his characters because he had to.

Stallone had a rough childhood, starting with a paralyzing accident during his birth. Stallone had to be pulled out of his mother during birth using forceps, which accidentally paralyzed part of his face, and this damage resulted in partial paralysis of his lips, tongue, and chin. This contributes to the slurred, rugged way he talks.

Growing up, Stallone said he was bullied and made fun of because of the way he talked, but now his rough, gruff voice is instantly recognizable and an iconic part of his persona.

He took what many perceived as his flaw and turned it into a strength.

Not only did Stallone have to overcome bullying at school, but he also had it rough at home. His father was abusive, and Stallone and his brother Frank had to spend many years away from home in boarding school. Stallone would get in trouble a lot, and he attended 13 schools in 12 years.

Movies provided an escape for Stallone and his brother. Growing up, they would sneak into movie theaters all over New York and stay all day watching every movie they could. Stallone took drama classes in high school and appeared in several school productions, and after spending some time at the University of Miami, he decided to move back to New York so that he could be a full-time actor.

But nobody in the industry would hire him to star in a movie, and the only jobs he could get were as thugs, extras, and workers on movie sets. Directors and producers told him he would never be a star because of the way he looked and the way he talked.

This feedback made Stallone realize he was a hard person to write for because of how tough and rugged he looked and talked, but also because of how emotionally vulnerable he could be on the inside. So, instead of quitting like most people would do, he learned how to write screenplays and direct movies for himself to star in.

In 1976, Stallone wrote, directed, and starred in the boxing movie Rocky. Rocky was a huge success and a turning point in his career. The movie won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Stallone was also nominated for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for his work on the film.

Rocky not only overcame a paralyzing accident at birth, a physically abusive father, being bullied and made fun of at school, basically moving to a new school every year, and being told he would never be a successful actor, but he used all those experiences to help climb out of The Pit and into becoming an international superstar.

He did so by knowing what his strengths were and completely leveraging them by creating and playing some of the most iconic movie heroes and franchises in the history of film.

Climbing Out of the Pit

In his documentary, Sly, Stallone talked about two specific moments that helped him keep going and climb out of The Pit of abuse and rejection:

1 - As a kid when he was watching the movie, Hercules Unchained, he said the moment when he saw actor Steve Reeves step up and pull the temples down was the moment he could see himself in movies because he said he finally had a role model he could idolize.

Being able to see ourselves through others can be a powerful motivational tool. If we can see it, we can believe it, and if we can believe it, we can become it.

2 - After acting in a play called The Death of a Salesman in college, a Harvard professor approached him and told him he should think of this as a career and study it because he had something. Stallone said that moment changed the course of his life.

One moment can change your life. You are one moment away from taking the first step to living the life of your dreams.


1 - What is your biggest takeaway from Sylvester Stallone's story?

2 - One of Stallone's distinct characteristics that set him apart was his voice, but he was picked on and rejected because of it. What is something unique about you that can set you apart, and how? It can be something you like, or it can be something you don't like about yourself.

3 - What would you need to keep pursuing your dreams if you were Stallone and were rejected at almost every turn? How would you keep going?

4 - Do you have a role model? Who is someone who is doing what you hope to do one day? What can you learn from them, their habits, and their journey?

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