This past week friends have referred two very personal documentaries to me, Sly, and Maxine’s Baby. They tell the stories of Sylvester Stallone and Tyler Perry.
Each of these men came through struggle and abuse with little reason for hope or high expectation yet for each there was a calling. In addition to being inspired and increasing already existing respect for each of them, I see so much of what I teach being shown in unique ways.
Sylvester Stallone could find no one to believe in his work and eventually, once the power of his first story, Rocky, was seen, investors wanted his story but not him. They wanted another actor, any other actor. Yet he believed in his vision, and he believed in himself. He could not find a place for himself in Hollywood, so he created a space. When he couldn’t get a job as an actor, he took on all the roles becoming an actor, writer, director, & producer, to make it happen.
Tyler Perry, failing to excel as a potential minister, and initially failing in every role within the acting profession, eventually did the same thing. He created that place for himself and, as we know, excelled far beyond imagination. His position has inspired and literally supported thousands as he created his own studio, his own brand, and his own legacy.
For each of these, the willingness to create that place that didn’t exist, caused them to learn a great deal about who they were. It called them to look in the mirror frequently and claim their strengths and their limitations. It called them to develop skills they didn’t know they possessed as well as bring in others to support skills they simply did not have.
Each has their detractors. Each has others who question their value and their purpose in a changing world, yet each has a place. Each has a message of hope – a message of bringing others along with them – and a message that demonstrates anything can be possible when you believe in yourself and your message.
Leadership, in our lives, our professions, or our own personal development, calls for a certain level of outrageousness. Blending in can be easier in some ways, yet so much harder if that is not who you are called to be. Leadership, owning and outrageously claiming who you are, and going for it, means you don’t fit in. You are standing out. You are doing what “can’t be done”, or what has never been done before, or simply what others may have avoided doing.
It means never playing it safe knowing that controversy is created around anything or anyone that stands out yet doing it anyway. Just look, what are success stories about? Someone who helped a loved one survive long after they were expected to pass, someone who changed how an industry is practiced, someone who did what “couldn’t be done”, someone who discovered a cure that was previously unknown.
Going after your dreams, creating a life and/or legacy, means being outrageous as well as becoming a leader. It’s something we are all called to. The only questions are how and why. With little over a month until a new year begins, what outrageousness will you claim in the new year? What aspect of your leadership will you develop? What, if any, dream have you not followed? These leaders above are extraordinary, not because they exist but because they gave themselves permission to follow that calling, to become what they knew was possible. Can you do the same?