“Who here wants to make a living wrestling?”
It takes me a few seconds of deep(ish) thought before I raise my hand. I mean sure, I’ve really enjoyed professional wrestling in the short time I’ve done it (or amateur professional wrestling as I like to call it). I get to dress in tights and be completely outrageous. I get to take those parts of me people might not like and dial them to 11. These things are encouraged and entirely expected of me. I’d never been booed so hard and didn’t know it was something you could want or something I’d look to cultivate. Would I want to make a living from it? Did I want to be wrestling nearly every night, travelling all over the country, and hoping to get noticed by the big brands? Did I want to risk numerous injuries, brain trauma and worse of all, the bruised egos backstage? I lift my hand. They’ll probably be building new bodies from scratch by the time I’m 80 anyway.
Some of the guys don’t raise their hands.
“Are you telling me that if I gave you a contract right now, there you go, you’re signed, you wouldn’t take it?”
Didn’t take long for every hand in the room to be raised. Or half of them I guess.
The man speaking is Robbie E, a real professional wrestler, in that he actually makes money doing this. He’s currently signed to TNA, or rather Impact Wrestling as it’s now known. I paid $30 to the ALE in order to get up on a Saturday morning and hit the gym because this man would be here. $30 is nothing to get this kind of access. His gimmick encompasses all the best (ie. most quotable) aspects of the Jersey Shore culture. He’s built like a fitness model, tanned to a crispy golden glow, and uses more hair gel before his matches than most of us have in our entire adolescence. In the ring, he’s boisterous and arrogant. In person, he genuinely wants you to learn, truly wants to see you improve. I’m not going to talk about clotheslines, selling or promos. If you’re not a wrestling type person, it would be of little interest to you. If you are a wrestling type person, well I don’t want to give away what the man teaches (trust me, it’s worth it). Instead, I want to touch on things that at first glance don’t seem as useful as “what to do during a heat”. These have a value all their own.
If you’re a little piece of shit, then be a little piece of shit.
This was said after one of the ALE’s wrestlers, just over five feet tall and hovering around a hundred pounds asked for advice. Specifically, he wanted advice that pertained to being a smaller guy. The above was Robbie E’s answer. Obviously, his meaning wasn’t that the guy asking the question was a piece of shit. The way he asked the question, he was looking to find a way past something he perceived as his weakness. He wanted to be a better wrestler despite being small and skinny. Robbie E essentially took what this wrestler saw as his weakness, flipped it on his head and sent it back to him. “Be a little piece of shit.” If you’re a small wrestler, use your size to your advantage. Use it when you’re setting up your matches, use it when you’re cutting a promo, and use it when interacting with your fans. It’s not so much about using a weakness as your strength, but more about aptly recognizing whether something is a strength or a weakness. After all, narcissism is a terrible character trait out in the real world, but for a wrestler’s in-ring persona, it’s a godsend. Maybe I’m expanding too much on a single sentence.
This concept applies outside of wrestling as well. Let’s look at the classic Alpha/Beta dichotomy and its place in business or entrepreneurship (even though that’s totally been disproven because as a social construct, it’s still a valuable concept). If you’re an Alpha, you’re aggressive and assertive. You know what you want and you’re going to stop at nothing to get it. In a business environment, that’s definitely a plus. It’s a trait that’s rewarded, and eventually you learn that using it will get you ahead. You’ll be put in charge of groups, leading projects to completion. That’s a good thing. If you’re a good leader, you should be placed in leadership positions. It’s easy to see assertiveness as a strength because it’s so valued. On the flip side, if you’re used to getting blasted for it (entirely possible in a different environment) you might not consider it a strength. Same thing goes for a Beta. “Being Beta” is usually seen as a negative thing, especially for men. You’re seen as meek, submissive and less desirable than an Alpha. Hell, being “Beta” is used as an insult in some circles. But like Robbie E was telling our local “little piece of shit”, let’s dig a bit deeper into this (sorry for that image). A Beta is less assertive and aggressive than an Alpha. Know what that makes you? Less abrasive. People love Alphas when they agree with them. Not so much if that isn’t the case. Betas aren’t meek; they’re better at compromise. They’re not submissive; they’re better at admitting when they’re wrong (trust me, I’m an Alpha, and I’m never wrong).
So whether your weakness is that you’re a Beta, you’re smaller, you’re less organized or you’re easily distracted, ask yourself if it’s really a weakness. It might be the strength that sets you apart from the pack. I always thought my greatest weakness was that I couldn’t make up my mind, that I wanted to do everything. Jack of all trades, master of none. I know a little about a lot. Turns out that when you’re trying to figure out a career path outside the norm, knowing a little about a lot is incredibly helpful. I’m not a great graphic designer, but I know how to use Photoshop and I can recognize bad design a mile away (went to school for it after all). Pretty helpful when you’re editing video or designing your blog.
Even if it’s a weakness, it makes you who you are. There’s always a way to make the unique you a winner. Just find the right situation.
This post is already a lot longer than I thought it would be, so let’s split it up. See you here Thursday for Part 2. Thank you again to Robbie E for the wisdom, and to the Académie de Lutte Estrienne (ALE) for setting up a fantastic seminar.