In his acceptance speech after winning the Golden Globe in 2015 for his role in “Creed,” Sylvester Stallone said, “I am the sum total of everyone I’ve ever met and sort of lucky that I’ve absorbed some of it.”
This was a bit ironic given that most people think of the character for which he is best known and won the award as one of America’s greatest stories of the “self-made” man.
There is no doubt Rocky Balboa earned his success. Both the training sequences and the many beatings and sacrifices he made are testament to this.
But while he is the hero of his own success story, in the background are a myriad of other people and factors — without which he would still be working the docks in Philadelphia.
Adrian gave him the emotional support, and Mickey gave him the training. Paulie was ringside and also helped get a sponsorship to underwrite training costs. His old boss (a “crook” no less) helped stake him even further. Then there was the company that let him punch the sides of beef during training. Someone from Apollo’s entourage pulled his name out of a book. Creed selected him and egged him on through his antics. And so on and so on.
It is through instinct and practice that we tell stories where there is a clear-cut “hero” and we often tell our own stories where we are the center of the universe. After all, that is what we are most often exposed to.
Yet when given the time and space to reflect, we may recognize that we too “are the sum total of everyone we’ve met.”
So try this the next time you find yourself talking about what “you’ve done” or “what you will do”: avoid using the pronoun “I.” Instead talk about the “he’s” and “she’s” and “what’s” that made what you did or are going to do possible.
You may find it tough — I’ve tried it and it is. But you’ll be surprised by how well not only you feel, but also the others who are hearing your story.