The Decision That Made Sylvester Stallone an International Icon

Courage can lead a risk-taker to great success!

In the movie, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Paul Newman and Robert Redford are outlaws being chased by the law. Eventually, they find themselves between a rock and a hard place. In one of the most famous scenes in movie history, they jump off a huge cliff. Likewise, if you want to be successful in your career, you need to have courage because there will be times you need to jump off a cliff!

One of the most successful real estate developers of all time is Trammell Crow. He said it perfectly: “Everything in life is a risk. If it’s without risk, it’s probably without profit.”

Fortune magazine agreed, saying: “It’s impossible to go far in business without a healthy supply of courage.”

In 1975, Sylvester Stallone was a struggling actor who could barely put food on the table. But he wrote this amazing screenplay called “Rocky,” which he successfully pitched to United Artists.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

United Artists was going to pay Stallone about $4 million in today’s dollars for the screenplay. The studio heads didn’t want Stallone to play Rocky, but Stallone was stubborn. He was going to play Rocky.

United Artists finally agreed he could be Rocky but only after withdrawing the $4 million offer. For Stallone to make any money from his percentage of the movie’s profits, it had to be a huge success. Stallone took the risk, and “Rocky” won the Academy Award for best picture. He then went on to become an international icon, making hundreds of millions of dollars in his career.

In 1937, Walt Disney was doing pretty well producing cartoons that were shown in movie theaters before the main feature. But Disney wanted to do something nobody ever did before — produce a full-length animated movie. Everybody said it would bankrupt him, including his wife and his business partner. The press called it “Disney’s Folly.”

Disney took the risk anyway and created “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” one of the most successful movies of all time. Disney risked it all again in the 1950s when he mortgaged everything he owned to build an upscale amusement park called Disneyland.

In 1970, professional football was only played on Sunday afternoons. Pete Rozelle, the commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), wanted to start broadcasting some of the games in the evening, on a day other than Sunday. The critics said it would never work. Rozelle took the risk and created “Monday Night Football,” the second longest-running TV show in prime time history.

In 1962, Fred Smith was a student at Yale. In his economics class, he outlined a revolutionary idea for a business that would provide overnight delivery service. He got a C on the paper because the professor said it wasn’t feasible. Smith eventually risked all the money he inherited to start this business, which is now known as FedEx.

In 1952, Walter Annenberg wanted to create a weekly magazine that showed TV listings. The critics said it would never work. Why would people pay extra money for this magazine when TV listings were already free in the local paper? Annenberg took the risk and created TV Guide — the most popular magazine of all time.

James Cameron, the producer of “Titanic,” spent more than $200 million bringing the story to the big screen. Most people thought that it would sink as the greatest disaster in the history of movie making. Instead, the movie became the highest grossing of all time, bringing in almost $2 billion worldwide.

Like Stallone, Disney and Cameron, don’t be afraid to take a risk in your life, business or career. Without a doubt, there will be times when you need to jump off a cliff.