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Reasons not to give up #2: even celebrities have it tough sometimes

by Amanda Collins

Looking at celebrities, it’s easy to imagine that they were destined for greatness, that they are somehow set apart from everyday people. But just like you and me, they are human, and like all of us, their stories are filled with ups and downs. What has made them successful, however, is that no matter what life throws at them, they never give up. 

So to inspire you, we have compiled some celebrity stories which prove that people are capable of great things when they combine perseverance with self-belief and commit to making their dreams a reality!

Sylvester Stallone

It’s hard to believe that the icon of action films, Sylvester Stallone, ever had a hard day in his life, but he did. In fact, he had a lot of them.

Forceps used to help deliver Sly into the world ended up severing a nerve and causing paralysis in the lower left hand side of his face creating his signature sneer, as well as his speech impediment.

As a child Sly moved from foster home to foster home in Hell’s Kitchen, and eventually as a young man managed to make it on his own to New York City to chase his dream of becoming an actor.

New York was cruel to Sly, and after countless rejections he ended up broke, kicked out of his apartment and homeless in a New Jersey Bus Station. At his lowest point he sold his beloved dog for $25 so that he could feed himself and ensure his dog had a home, even if he didn’t.

For most, this level of destitution would crush their dreams, but not Stallone. After watching a documentary about Muhammad Ali, Sly put pen to paper and wrote the script for Rocky in just three days.

Recognising a hit when they saw it, a studio made several offers on the script, which despite his dire circumstances he turned down, because although they wanted the script, they did not want him to act in it. Finally the studio relented, paid Stallone a six figure sum and brought him on as the lead actor.

Rocky made $2 million dollars at the box office and launched Stallone’s acting career. With his first pay check, Stallone bought back his dog for $15,000.

“I am not the richest, smartest or most talented person in the world, but I succeed because I keep going and going and going,” Stallone said.

Walt Disney

The king of film and theme parks, Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job for “lacking imagination and having no new ideas”. In fact, Disney’s career is marked by numerous early ‘failures’.

As a young man, Disney set about making his animation career a reality by opening up a small cartoon studio. This first studio however soon went bankrupt.

Not one to be deterred, Disney moved to Hollywood with a small suitcase and $20 in his pocket, determined to work in showbiz. When the doors closed on him in Hollywood, he again set up his own animation studio after haranguing his brother to join him in the venture.

The studio made its money by working for Universal Studios, creating a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Soon though, Universal poached the majority of Walt’s animators and informed him that they owned the copyright for Oswald.

Battered and bruised, Walt decided that he would only ever work for himself, and deliver films directly to distributors. To this end, he created Mickey Mouse. Success sprung with Mickey’s third film Steamboat Willie, which the studio followed up with a bevy of successful films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi.

Today the Disney Company is worth a whopping $600 billion.

Speaking about success, Disney said “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you”.


Even Queen Bey had her off days on the way to the top. As a young singer with big dreams, she entered a television talent competition ‘Star Search’. Her group, Girls Tyme, made it all the way to the top before being passed over in favour of an all-male group, Skeleton Crew. Not long after this loss Beyonce formed Destiny’s Child, which launched her into super stardom.

“When I’m not feeling my best I ask myself, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ I use the negativity to fuel the transformation into a better me,” Beyonce said.

The Beatles

Arguably one of the biggest bands that has ever been, success for the Beatles didn’t come easily. After playing the local scene for years, the Beatles managed to score an audition for a record company, Decca Records. Travelling overnight to reach the studio the next morning, the group was excited, nervous and ready for their big break. This however was not to be, as the studio trashed the audition saying “we don’t like your sound, and guitar music is on the way out”. Despite this the group continued to work and eventually landed a contract with EMI Records. The rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking about that rejection later on in their career George Harrison said “[Decca] signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes instead. The head of Decca, Dick Rowe, made a canny prediction: ‘Guitar groups are on the way out…” to which Paul McCartney replied, “He must be kicking himself now”.

Hilary Swank

It wasn’t always Oscars and million dollar paychecks for actress Hillary Swank. Her path to success was littered with obstacles.

Growing up in an impoverished trailer park, Swank and her two siblings were raised by her mother after her father left them.

Years later Swank hit the road to LA with her mother in order to launch her acting career. Broke but hopeful, they lived in their car working a number of odd jobs until they could afford an apartment.

Even when she finally landed her big break in Boys Don’t Cry, she was only paid $75 a day for her work. Swank won an Oscar for her performance which led her to an amazing career and a US$40 million dollar bank account.

Speaking about her journey Swank said her mother “instilled in me that there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish if I worked hard enough. She didn’t give me false expectations that fairy dust was going to be thrown over me and suddenly all my dreams would come true. She told me that I was going to have to work my ass off to achieve my dreams. And I never questioned that. I just said, ‘OK’”.

Will Smith

Growing up in a troubled family ,Will Smith started rapping when he was just a teenager under the name ‘Fresh Prince’. He went on to great success earning himself millions of dollars as well as a Grammy award.

Young and not wise with money, Smith spent freely and ended up with a $2.8 million dollar tax debt which almost sent him bankrupt.

After struggling with huge money issues, Smith went on to score a role on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air which reignited his fortunes, allowing him to slowly and steadily pay off his debt. From the Fresh Prince, Will was able to secure movie roles which opened the doors to super-stardom.

Discussing his success, Will said “I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation”.

Stephen King

A fearful and nervous child, Stephen King was scared of most things, including his mother abandoning both him and his brother, as his father had done in his infancy.

To cope with his fears he wrote stories about them. He began to try to get published in his teens and would nail rejection letters to his wall. So numerous did this pile grow that the nail could eventually no longer take the weight and collapsed.

At university he met his wife and soon they had two children. Struggling to get a teaching job, King took a number of odd jobs to make ends meet whilst trying to write for publications and feed his family. Living in dingy apartments and trailers, the King family could not even afford a telephone because of the bills.

During this time King wrote Carrie, and after feeling dejected threw it in the bin. His wife fished it out and convinced him to keep going and eventually he sent it to a publisher. Soon after he received a $200,000 offer on it.

This money allowed him to write full time and since then he has gone on to write over 55 novels which have sold over 350 million copies.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work,” King said.

Richard Branson

It’s been a bumpy road for self-made billionaire Richard Branson. Starting his career at 17 by creating a student magazine and selling its advertising space, Branson does not know the meaning of quitting.

Three years after the magazine launched, Branson started a mail-order record company to fund the publication. So successful was this mail order company that he was able to open a record store and then a record label.

This label, Virgin Records, signed a number of successful artists including the Rolling Stones, making it one of the top record companies in the world.

Not satisfied, Branson moved into the travel sector starting Virgin Atlantic, as well as a series of Virgin Meagstores.

The company, however, struck financial woes and Branson had to sell Virgin Records to EMI. Crushed by the loss, it is said Branson cried during the contract signage.

Determined to stay in the music business, Branson started Virgin Radio and built his company’s finances back up, investing in a number of new projects including Virgin Galactic, and becoming one of the world’s richest men in the process, with $5.1 billion to his name.

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again,” Branson has said, adding “One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes”.

Halle Berry

One of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, Halle Berry experienced a number of setbacks and blows to get where she is today.

Young and ambitious, Halle hit New York aiming to get work as an actor, but when all the doors closed and she couldn’t find work, she ended up living in a homeless shelter.

Struggling and impoverished, Halle never wavered from her goal, and kept knocking on doors until opportunity finally opened up and she started to get a few roles. Her career hit snags, and after numerous unsuccessful television roles she finally got cast in a Spike Lee movie which got her noticed. From there, she went on to secure other movie roles and eventually starred in Monster’s Ball, for which she won an Oscar. Halle Berry is now worth $70 million.

“It taught me how to take care of myself and that I could live through any situation, even if it meant going to a shelter for a small stint, or living within my means, which were meager,” Halle said of her low points, adding “I became a person who knows that I will always make my own way”.

Bill Gates

This computer tech giant has not always been in a winning position, in fact his first company Traf-O-Data went belly up. Dusting himself off from disappointment Gates and his business partner went onto found a little company called Microsoft, now worth an estimated $62.8 billion, making Gates one of the world’s richest men.

“I failed in some subjects in an exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft,” Gates said.

Dr Seuss

Iconic children’s writer, Dr Seuss, had his first children’s book rejected 27 times before it was picked up!

“Only you can control your future,” Dr Seuss said.

Oprah Winfrey

Born in rural Mississippi in 1954, Oprah grew up so poor that she often had nothing to eat for days on end and was sent to school in dresses made from potato sacks. Abused by family members, and picked on by her classmates for being poor, Oprah dove into her studies, working hard to eventually earn a scholarship to college.

At 19 Oprah became the first African American woman to host the news in Nashville, and at 22 she was recruited to co-host the Baltimore news. A big break for Oprah, the job ended in disaster when she was fired for being too emotional and “not right for television”.

Devastated but determined, Oprah found a position with a failing talk show People are Talking. Oprah turned the show into a hit, and after a series of other TV jobs, ended up hosting her own talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show. This program lasted an impressive 28 years on air and turned Oprah into a multi-billionaire.

Speaking about struggle Oprah said “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude”.

Success and achievement isn’t a road that runs smoothly. Like a hilly climb, there will be ups and downs. The important thing is not to lose sight of the goal. It may be hard, and there may be times when you want to give up. Don’t. Remember, if people like Bill Gates and The Beatles had have given up, the world would be a very different place. So keep moving forward – change your world, who knows what you might do!

Now is the time for action!

Like all the successful people that have gone before you, it’s time to dust off your computer and get back to making your dream a reality. Don’t plan to do it, take action and log into Open Space today! You are capable of amazing things – make them happen!

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