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  • Writer's pictureTom Lewis

Learning To Say “NO” Can Be A Game Changer

Photo Credit (Rocky 4): © A.J. Morales, R.M. Benito

No one likes to hear the word “no,” much less say it, but incorporating its use more often can pay big dividends in business and your personal life. As human beings, our single most important commodity is our time and, unfortunately, it’s not something we have an endless supply of. That’s why saying “no” to things of low value, or that don’t further our cause is so important. As we head into a new year and start making our yearly resolutions, I can’t think of anything more vital than saying “no” to everything that doesn’t help you further your goals.

“Yo Adrian”

For me, the most inspiring use of the word “no” comes from the true story of Sylvester Stallone and the creation of “Rocky.” From an early age, Stallone was motivated to do something that would allow him to inspire people on a large scale. He saw acting as his medium, but the problem he faced was the word, “no.” After moving to New York with his wife in pursuit of his dreams, Stallone spent years being rejected for almost every part he tried out for and claims that he was turned down over 1,500 times. He talked out of the side of his mouth, with a gruff Italian accent, and didn’t seem to have the “quintessential” movie star qualities, but he never let that get in his way.

Consider changing your approach.

Stallone eventually landed some small acting parts, but they were of little significance and he soon found himself struggling to pay the bills. One day he camped out at the local library and discovered Edgar Allen Poe, which changed his life. Poe’s writing deeply affected him, so he changed his approach and decided to become a writer…who does that? He soon sold his first screenplay, Paradise Alley, for $100, but his success was short-lived. His wife pressured him to take a regular job but he said, “no,” because he knew that it would keep him from fulfilling his dreams.

Be willing to put it all on the line.

Eventually, Stallone found himself selling his wife’s jewelry and doing just about anything to stay alive. At his low point, he ended up selling his dog (his best friend,) in front of a liquor store for $25. He was now at rock bottom and it was at that point that his hard work would pay off. A few weeks later he watched a heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner and was inspired to write the screenplay for the movie Rocky. Immediately after the fight, he spent the next 20 hours and wrote what would become one of the best films ever made.

Stick to your guns.

Stallone spent months trying to sell his screenplay, but there wasn’t much interest. After some time passed, he met with some movie executives that fell in love with the script and offered him $125,000 – more money than he could ever imagine! Stallone was blown away but quickly made sure they understood that he intended to play the part of Rocky. The executives told him that they already had picked Ryan O’Neal to play the part and that he was a writer, not an actor! Stallone declined the offer. Yes, he turned down the most money he had ever seen… A few weeks later he was offered $250,000, but declined that offer as well, for the same reason. Some time passed and he was approached yet again with a final offer of $350,000. Again Stallone declined. Soon after, the movie executives decided to change their approach and offered Stallone a mere $35,000 and the role of Rocky. Stallone immediately accepted. What mattered to him the most was being an actor, so he agreed to take on the financial risk with the others involved and rolled the dice on whether the movie would be a success.

Keep making decisions based on what’s important to you.

After getting paid for the screenplay, the first thing Stallone did was try to buy his dog back. He camped out in front of the liquor store for days until he saw the man who bought his dog again. It had been several months and he knew the guy would be attached, so he made him one offer after another which were all declined, but one. In the end, Stallone paid $15,000 for the dog and also had to give the man a part in his movie! In 1977, Rocky won the Oscar for best picture and made Stallone a Hollywood legend.

As Stallone stood on stage, holding the trophy, he thought about all the people who doubted him and said he would never make it. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you say “no” to things that aren’t moving you towards your goal.

Know when to say “NO.”

The business world has fooled us into believing that accumulating wealth is the end goal, but I beg to differ. I think life is about pursuing your dreams and making your mark on the world. Knowing when to say “no” to an opportunity is just as important as knowing when to say yes – it can mean the difference between a quick buck and an Oscar.

Tom Lewis, Partner | Creative Director

With over 25 years of professional advertising and design experience, Tom has spent much of his career working with a variety of companies throughout the southeast. His client list includes Lenoir UNC Health Care, Maola Milk, Hutchens Law Firm, Wayne Community College, Craven County Tourism, Nash County Tourism Guardian Repellent, Equifax, Georgia Pacific, Primerica, Weyerhaeuser, The Atlanta Hawks, Randstad Staffing and The Shizzle Jerk Marinade.

Photo Credit (Rocky 4): © A.J. Morales, R.M. Benito

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