Seeking out what makes you unique, using it to your advantage and having the confidence to back yourself could provide the spark that is often needed to create personal and professional opportunities.
Former pro wrestler Mike Kinney, aka “Cowboy Gator Magraw”, has shared his experiences pursuing his ambition to break into the world of pro wrestling via a TED Talk that stressing the benefits of being “turned up”.
Kinney said he had long dreamed of becoming a pro wrestler, and recalls the support provided by his father in the initial stages of his career. However, when his father passed away unexpectedly, Kinney was devastated.
“I wanted to feel normal again, even if it was for just a second, so I went back to wrestling almost immediately,” he recalled.
“Wrestling belonged to me and my dad, you know? So there I was, sitting in the locker room, getting ready for a match within days of my dad passing away. He was gone. And sitting there alone — it felt like I was hiding. But it also felt like I needed to be there.”
Kinney said another experienced wrestler, who had checked to see how he was holding up, had provided him with a “piece of advice that would change the entire direction of my life”.
“He told me the best wrestlers are just themselves, but ‘turned up’,” Kinney said.
“He said successful wrestlers find the traits within themselves they’re the strongest at and make those the focus of who they become in the ring.”
Kinney said he initially tried to identify what he had in common with his fellow wrestlers, before realising he didn’t have to be like them. It was from here that the Speedo-wearing (or “trunks”, as Kinney would say) character of Cowboy Gator Magraw began to evolve.
Kinney discovered his talents as an entertainer, recalling that “turning myself up made me unforgettable to the fans” and, persisting with this approach, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a phone call.
“It was the call I wish my dad was around to hear,” Kinney recalled.
“The WWE, the biggest wrestling organisation in the world, wanted me to come and be a part of Monday Night Raw. Yes – all of my hard work and miles on the road were finally paying off.”
On live television, “dressed up as a fake security guard”, Kinney escorted another wrestler to the ring.
“Sure, I was disappointed I didn’t get to wrestle, but very few wrestlers get any kind of call from the WWE,” he reflected.
“Maybe one in a few hundred. And becoming Cowboy Gator Magraw is what got me there.
“So instead of walking away that day, I decided to turn myself up again and become the best security guard I could. In fact, I did it so well, I was the only guard to get a close-up on TV that night. That’s a big deal, you know?”
Kinney said while maybe his WWE experience wasn’t ideal, it provided him motivation to work harder, “turning myself up louder year after year”, which in turn led to more opportunities.
Having wrestled in his final match in 2007, Kinney said the attitude he adopted throughout his pro wrestling career has stayed with him.
“Look, the wrestling circus doesn’t need to come to your town before you get an invitation to be the real you – the bigger, more stunning version of yourself,” he said.
“It doesn’t even necessarily come from our parents. Turning yourself up means looking inward toward our true selves and harnessing the voice that says: ‘Maybe, just maybe, I am more than I thought I was’.”