Maybe the most destructive fantasy people have is that if they just stay at home and do nothing, they will be "discovered" by some agent or producer who'll sign them to a huge deal based on little or no effort. Let's face it: Almost all prominent people got where they are thanks to years or decades of grinding work.
Almost all. Those "amazing talent discovered at random" stories do happen, and sometimes to people who actively didn't want it to. It's like their world-altering ability was the result of some latent mutant power they were either completely unaware of or terrified to embrace, lest it should threaten to destroy the entire planet like Jean Grey in X-Men 3.
#6. Jerry Rice's Speed Was Noticed While He Was Running from the School Principal
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Jerry Rice is possibly the greatest football player of all time. He is a Hall of Famer from the San Francisco 49ers and is essentially what you would get if a bunch of scientists joined forces in a government super lab to create the ultimate wide receiver. He is the all-time leader in receptions, touchdowns, and yards, won three Super Bowls, and holds almost every single record related to his position in the NFL. And the only reason he ever joined a football team was to get out of serving detention in high school.
Or, as he tells his young fans, "I followed the rules so I could get an education."
One day while attending B.L. Moor High School back in 1978, Rice decided that going to class could eat a fart, so he elected to loiter in the halls instead. He was spotted by his assistant principal, because that's what happens when you cut class to wander aimlessly around the school instead of going to the roller rink or something, and when the principal called out to him, Rice took off.
A frantic sprint carried him past the office of the football coach, who noticed that Rice was embracing truancy with the incredible foot speed of a cheetah made of pure lightning. The principal eventually caught up with Rice and was ready to dole out some hellacious detention when the football coach convinced him to make Rice an offer -- either play football for the school, or lose an entire afternoon to detention, possibly even a whole Saturday. Wait, isn't that how Harry Potter got discovered for his Quidditch team?
Unlike football, we understand Quidditch.
Anyway, despite the fact that his parents had forbidden him from playing (his mother was afraid he would get hurt), Rice accepted the football option and quickly became the greatest player the school, and the world, had ever seen. He went on to college at Mississippi Valley State University, set 18 division records, and was drafted in the first round by San Francisco, where he would become arguably the greatest pro athlete in history.
Meanwhile, we're wondering why that assistant principal never got any NFL Combine invitations for managing to run down Jerry fucking Rice.
#5. Martha Stewart Was Discovered Hosting a Random Party for Her Husband
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First of all, allow us to blow your minds by pointing out that Martha Stewart is 72, which makes her older than Christopher Walken and the same age as Nick Nolte.
In her seven decades of life on Earth (not counting her time spent in the Highlander realm walking among the other immortals), Stewart has had successful careers as a model, a stock broker, a home restorer, and a caterer, all before she published her first book and launched one of the biggest and most successful media empires in the history of the world. And she stumbled ass-backward into that totally by chance.
See, Stewart had pretty much retired. After working as a model in her teens for companies like Chanel, she married a lawyer and worked as a stockbroker in New York, possibly because her college degree was in architectural history and it is very difficult to parlay that into a career unless you are a fictional character who plunders mummy tombs.
"We've identified the prettiest building. Now to wait for unspeakable wealth."
She followed that up with a brief foray into home restoration before she and her husband moved to Connecticut, where she started up a small catering business, serving friends and small local organizations trays of trout almondine or whatever the hell it is she makes on her show. And that was pretty much supposed to be it for Stewart -- she'd settled into a nice, low-stress job organizing parties for people around town while her husband worked as the president of a New York publishing company and made the real money.
Then Stewart organized a party for her husband to congratulate him for having published a series of successful children's books, inviting his friends and colleagues to experience one of her patented Martha Stewart electric taste bud raves. Her catering stylez so impressed Alan Mirken, the head of a rival publishing company, that he hired her to write a series of cookbooks. The cookbooks steamrolled into magazine articles, television appearances on shows like Larry King Live and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and eventually her own magazine/TV show titled Martha Stewart Living, which became the cornerstone of the market-saturating media juggernaut that is Martha Stewart. Today she's worth a little over half a billion dollars, and that's after going to prison for insider trading.
Normally, of course, convicted businesspeople wind up impoverished.
What's even more crazy about Stewart's success as a famous homemaker is that it took a relative stranger working for another publishing company to approach her about writing a cookbook when her husband was a freaking publishing executive. Nice job paying attention to your wife's hobbies, dude.
#4. A NASCAR Driver Got His Start as an Extra in Days of Thunder
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Even if you don't know anything about NASCAR, you have to assume it's like every other sport -- you grind it out in the bush leagues and eventually work your way up to the Daytona 500. Or in Bobby Hamilton's case, you blow NASCAR officials away by driving a race car in the background of a Tom Cruise movie.
Not Eyes Wide Shut; blowing away there would have launched a different career.
1990's Days of Thunder, the Tom Cruise movie in question, was essentially Top Gun if all the jets were cars and nobody gave a shit. Or Talladega Nights if it was insufferably melodramatic (John C. Reilly actually appears in both films). Anyway, because Days of Thunder is about NASCAR, the filmmakers needed some way of gathering footage from actual NASCAR races that they could use for the various racing sequences in the movie. The only way to do it was to take "movie" cars (cars painted up to look like the ones the characters in the movie were supposed to be driving) and enter them into actual races. Renting out a bunch of real Winston Cup cars complete with professional drivers would've cost way too much money, and this was back in 1989, before the phrase "way too much money" was outlawed from Hollywood filmmaking.
The movie cars needed drivers, and three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip recommended his friend Bobby Hamilton to the production team. Hamilton was a driver but had never set foot in a Winston Cup car (the standard NASCAR racer you see in the movies). We repeat, he had never driven that type of car before, but he happily climbed behind the wheel of one for the Days of Thunder production team.
Hey, you drive one car, you've driven them all, right? Right?!
Hamilton was only supposed to drive the car around the track, surrounded by other cars, so they could get the type of dramatic footage they needed. What he did instead was drive the absolute shit out of that movie car and finish the race in fifth place. That's right -- Bobby Hamilton, who had never driven a Winston Cup car before and was given a barely qualifying hunk of metal to putter around the track and look good for the cameras, performed better than 95 percent of the real, professional drivers who were actually competing in the race.
Hamilton was actually winning the fucking thing until NASCAR and Paramount (the movie studio behind Days of Thunder) wisely decided to tell him to throttle back and let the professional racers win to avoid pissing in everyone's faces. NASCAR took notice of his ridiculously improbable performance, however, and he quickly became a full time Winston Cup driver for Tri-Star Motorsports. Hamilton wound up with four career Sprint Cup victories and more than $15 million in winnings over 15 years of racing. So, despite its best efforts, Days of Thunder wound up being a positive point in at least one person's career.