Two guys were sitting at a table next to my wife and me as we drank our Saturday morning coffee. All of us marveled at the snow accumulating outside, grateful for the hot brew warming us.
This quiet coffee shop, where we spend an hour most weekends, is filled with an eclectic group of locals seemingly on the same mission: to catch up with each other’s lives and remember the importance of some “down time.” The banter was generally light, the atmosphere friendly.
As the “neighbors” played a board game that included a variety of cards and several figurines -- mostly dragons and knights -- I couldn’t help but hear parts of their conversation. One was relating that he had seen Rocky 6 on DVD the previous night, and his friend mocked him openly.
“I mean, is there a need for a sixth edition of that farce?”
The other person became a little defensive because he clearly liked the character and the series, explaining that this last film wrapped up the entire saga fairly well. He concluded by saying the film had made over $70 million in the states, and the six-movie series had made more than $1 billion worldwide.
The response was, “Yeah, big deal!”
I wanted to step in, but my wife gave me that look, so I swallowed hard and sipped my hazelnut blend. What would I have said? Well, I would have said only one thing to that coffee-shop, dragon-fighting-knight-wannabe:
“OK, pal, what have you done?”
Well, maybe I am a little sensitive about Sylvester Stallone. I think I speak for most of my 50-ish Italian brethren who were nearly 16 years old when the first Rocky flick came out; we all took pride in the first well-portrayed Italian hero since Joe DiMaggio. We identified with Rocky as did much of the country.
I recall the rash of joggers and gym memberships expanding exponentially in the wake of that movie.
His story of writing, finding producing partners, and starring in the original film is the stuff of Cinderella stories. Flat-broke at the time, he reportedly was offered considerable money to hand the script over to well-known star commodities like Burt Reynolds or Ryan O’Neil. He stubbornly refused so that he could be the star and become another Hollywood icon. He took a big cut in pay to do it “his way.” And of course, the work was legendary.
“Big deal?” You’re darn right it is. Stallone’s ups and downs, marriages and divorces and highs and lows have all been well-documented through the years, but he hung in there and recovered every time -- always coming back stronger than the last.
He made something of his life, and put his money and his word on the line, which takes me back to my original point: why are some people so ready and willing to rip others’ accomplishments? They love to point out the low times of those who took a lot of grief and public persecution yet rose above that to accomplish great things.
Look at Bill Gates, Stephen Jobs, Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Steven Spielberg, Madonna, Stephen King, Howard Stern, Michael Dell and Walt Disney. These former “dreamers” constantly heard others telling them they couldn’t make it, couldn’t “recover.” But they believed in themselves and took a leap of faith, becoming something important and recognizable.
And they found ways to sustain success -- seemingly the hardest thing for people in any walk of life to accomplish.
We don’t even have look to famous people to find such heart and dedication. Think of the burden of the physically challenged, single moms, single dads, people who can’t maintain employment. These people push ahead through life, finding each hour challenging, yet they raise their children, pay their bills, and smile!
Is it really fair that those trying to achieve something should have to endure the wrath of a quick-tongued passerby who has had no challenges in his or her life, and feels a right to comment on everyone else? I don’t think so.
Maybe if everyone concentrated on self-improvement instead of being critical, we would be much better off. The world seems to consist of those who do and those who watch. Why do those who watch have so much to say about those who go about their business?
We should all ask ourselves the following questions. Are we good parents? Do we spend time with our kids? Do we lead respectable lives that our children can model? Have they seen us at our best? Have they seen us at our worst? When we were at our worst, did we fall apart, swear like a sailor, and kick the family dog?
Little innocent eyes are usually connected to a brain that has a really good memory. Yet do we talk about other people and the way they raise their kids? We had better be careful. We might get another turn at parenting we weren’t expecting, that comes with a completely different set of challenges. Ask some “modern grandparents” today who are literally raising their grandchildren as their own.
Are we good workers? Is our reputation in the company something others hope to emulate? Even if it is, do we think sometimes they are talking about us the way we talk about them? We should consider the “ying” to our “yang.” Payback is elastic.
Are we kind, considerate mates? When was the last time we told our spouse he or she looked pretty or handsome? It’s probably been awhile. And we often think that our mate could/should be doing more for us, but again … what have we done?
Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.”
Without being vindictive, I hope my coffee shop “neighbor” stumbles across this article someday. Perhaps these words may serve as a mirror for him. Sylvester Stallone, like most of us, is simply doing the best he can. He has shown perseverance and character, and climbed many personal mountains to maintain integrity.
Before we point at another’s list of errors and eccentricities, we should consider their accomplishments and then humbly hold them next to a list of our own. When that’s done, we should stop and think what others who look at our list may be thinking. That moment may be very revealing.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.