I used to be a big WWF fan. Back in the early 90’s, my favourites were The Ultimate Warrior and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart. Although I don’t watch it anymore, I occasionally listen to podcasts where the old wrestlers talk about what it was like back in the day and share behind the scenes stories.
Something I didn’t expect to hear, though, was advice on how to get known/become successful in any industry. I was listening to Jim Cornette (former manager of Yokozuna) on Jim Cornette’s Talking Sense. One of the guests called in and asked Jim for advice on how to be a successful pro wrestling commentator. Jim’s answer surprised me in its wisdom;
“The only school you can go to is by watching wrestling, listening to great announcers, being able to figure out in your head what’s good and what’s bad, having a good voice, having the opportunity to get in front of somebody, getting plenty of experience on the job doing it and hoping that some day you get good enough that somebody will notice you.”
There’s a common misconception, when it comes to breaking into an industry, that there must be a secret to success. We get fooled into thinking there’s one particular tactic, technique or strategy the pros use that if we also knew, we could experience similar results. However, Cornette’s comment reveals that there isn’t. Instead, it’s about a number of things.
1. Model the greats
Jim mentions that you have to spend a lot of time OBSERVING the industry you are passionate about and studying the greats within that particular field. This gives you a knowledge base of the terminology unique to that field, an understanding what’s going on and a clear example you can turn over to your subconscious of the expert level you need to aim for.
Use the greats as your benchmark, breakdown what they do that allows them to be successful and then incorporate that into your own product or game.
2. Identify your Talents
Jim identifies ‘having a good voice’ as a vital attribute of an expert commentator. This is all about talent. Sure, you can train your voice, or whatever skill it is you want to become an expert in, but it helps if you’re naturally gifted. It’s not the most important quality, but it does make the learning process faster.
Therefore, make life easier for yourself by pursuing the passions that come naturally to you.
3. Get Noticed
Jim mentions ‘having the opportunity to get in front of somebody’. Rarely, will you make it on your own. You need to be noticed by someone with access to an audience larger than yours who will them promote you to this audience. This is how your popularity grows.
However, don’t think that someone is going to pluck you out of obscurity and push you into the limelight. It’s more than likely that YOU’LL have to be proactive in making these connections and building relationships with your industries kingmakers.
4. Get used to performing under pressure
Jim talks about ‘getting plenty of experience on the job’. This is slightly different to practising. While practise is important, you develop real confidence when you have to perform over and over when the pressure is on.
Therefore, whatever your craft is, spend hours and hours performing it in a paid or pressurised situation. Take advantage of whatever opportunity you can get to do this – no matter how small – because something magical happens when you do. After a while, your anxiety fades and you begin to relax. This enables your true personality and qualities to shine through, helping you stand out from the crowd.
(image taken from Ryan Moomey photostream on flickr.com)