I haven’t written about it much here, but in my younger days I was a big fan of professional wrestling. This was during the height of its popularity in the nineties, a time when there were more superstars than ever before (or since, if you ask me). There were still a lot of problems with it but overall the product was at least entertaining. Yes, it’s scripted, but the guys were great athletes putting on a great show. It was also made up entirely of men and women who bet on themselves. Becoming a professional wrestler has never been easy and it comes with a great risk of failure.
One story I’ve heard about a not-so-popular wrestler going by the name Lex Lugar involves a time he bet on himself. Eric Bischoff was in charge of the WCW at the time, and he didn’t like Lugar; Bischoff’s wife was good friends with Miss Elizabeth and like me and many others Bischoff blamed Lugar for her untimely death and also for beating the crap out of her on at least one occasion. Lugar’s contract was up, and he was making around three quarters of a million dollars a year. Lugar was good friends with Sting (and living in a room over his garage), so to keep the peace with Sting, who pretty much was WCW despite all the other talent they had, Bischoff decided to make him an offer.
An offer Lugar wouldn’t take: It was either $150,000 or $175,000, I can’t remember which, but it was much less than the close to a million he was pulling in. It was less than Bischoff figured Lugar thought he’d get on the open market. It was less than he thought the man would take, but he could say he tried. To his surprise (and admitted dismay), the son of a bitch agreed to it.
Bischoff was kind of impressed despite his feelings toward Lugar. The guy was betting on himself, betting he could turn it around. Of course, the company tanked unrelated to that and Lugar’s star never rose. But like many other wrestlers, he bet on himself.
Mick Foley is another guy who bet on himself. To become a wrestler he drove from his home to train on weekends and slept in his car eating peanut butter sandwiches. He slept in his car in the cold, he slept in his car in the heat. He traveled on his dime to make twenty-five dollars an appearance — basically, twenty-five dollars to get his ass kicked, because fake or not wrestling hurts and he was in a position to lose. He eventually worked his way up and was making six figures at WCW. When his contract was up he took less money to wrestle in Japan and for the WWF because he felt he was better than what WCW wanted him for. This was a man with a family and he walked away from guaranteed six figures.
It worked out: In the nineties Mick Foley became one of the most well known wrestlers of all time and made enough money to live comfortably in his retirement.
ALWAYS bet on yourself.
Never give yourself a reason to doubt your potential. By betting on yourself you are giving yourself an opportunity and a reason to succeed. Wrestlers aren’t the only athletes to do this — many athletes, many artists, many writers have put their money on themselves and succeeded. Many have failed, too. But none of the successes would exist without the risk.
Conor McGregor quit his job as a plumber because he saw something more for himself. The man is the Featherweight Champion and one of the best known UFC fighters in the history of the sport. He’s on a track to become one of the greatest athletes of a generation.
Sylvester Stallone was having a tough time in Hollywood getting roles in the early and mid seventies. He wrote Rocky in order to have control of his own destiny, and when some executives read it and liked it — he refused to sell it unless he could be the titular character. He turned down over a quarter of a million dollars of 1970s money in order to get the part, at a time when he had wealth that could be measured in the hundreds of dollars and a kid on the way. Because he was betting on his own success.
In all of these examples it worked out.
There is a saying, a saying I rather like, that men aren’t defeated — they give up or they die. This mantra should be a part of all of us. When you have a desire, a need, a burning passion for something you owe it to yourself to chase that until your options are exhausted or you’re dead. More than that you owe it to humanity because without those people we are all deprived of art, sport, or science.
A great deal of inventions have sprung from desparation. The modern balloon came from an unemployed factory worker with some left over latex. Monopoly was created by a broke guy. These aren’t life-changing creations but they are a part of our culture, something we see regularly and don’t even think about.
Stephen King, the author, worked as a teacher during the school year and washed clothes during the summer or did other odd jobs. He wrote at night. He’s not my cup of tea, but he dedicated himself and eventually through hard work and determination made a great deal of money. Had he given up on writing after the first, or the fifth, rejection? He’d be some retired English teacher in Maine.
ALWAYS bet on yourself. NEVER admit defeat. Die first.