When I think of the spirit that is embodied by artists, athletes and entrepreneurs – the very spirit that inspired me to launch this little blog nearly two years ago – there is one man who stands tall as a shining example of that spirit. His artistic genius when it comes to crafting stories and sculpting personalities in the world of sports entertainment is unmatched. His ferocious competitive spirit has brought him face-to-face with some of the most impressive physical athletes of our time. A consummate entrepreneur, he has hustled his way to build several companies and brands. On TV, he is one of the most hated and feared personalities around. Off camera, he is a loving father and business man. He has lived, and is living, a life fueled purely by passion. Ladies and gentlemen, his name is Paul Heyman.
In his own words, Paul’s father “could only admire his son’s moxy, and drive, and hustle, and wherewithal to pursue his dreams, no matter how [he] achieved them.” His “get it done” mentality is the stuff all entrepreneurs should strive for, and it started at a young age. In Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman (available now on DVD – nothing wrong with a shameless plug), Paul recounts his first hustle – at the tender age of 14. By that time, Paul was already running a wrestling fan magazine out of his parents’ home, which he built using his bar mitzvah money (isn’t that what all kids do?). Paul would spend his time chasing after professional wrestlers and taking photographs. But he had one target in mind – Madison Square Garden. How does a 14-year old photographer hustle his way onto the legendary floor of Madison Square Garden? Well, Paul read an article that said Vincent James McMahon (owner of the then World Wrestling Federation, now WWE) used to get his haircut at the Warwick Hotel every Monday prior to a wrestling event at MSG, and then after the event would close down Ben Benson’s Steakhouse and take his inner circle out. So, Paul found the number for Capital Wrestling Corporation, and being the publisher of his own magazine, asked for Mr. McMahon, who he claimed to have run into at Ben Benson’s Steakhouse, where Mr. McMahon promised Paul a press pass for MSG. And voila, Paul got his press pass and successfully hustled his way into MSG. Like any great entrepreneur, Paul had a goal and found a way to get it done.
In addition to passion and a savvy for finding ways to get it done, another quality crucial to success is being able to see opportunities and seize them. When Paul was 19 years old, he convinced legendary nightclub Studio 54 to allow him to photograph Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin, a then famous professional wrestler, at the club for a promo. While there, Studio 54’s head photographer became drunk and belligerent, and was ultimately thrown out of the club. While many just saw a scene, Paul saw an opportunity.
“Wow, that’s a very famous photographer,” Paul turned to the General Manager of Studio 54 and said in surprise. “What are you going to do here?”
“I don’t know,” the General Manager muttered.
“Well, if you’re looking for a head photographer,” Paul emphatically proclaimed, “I’M YOU’RE GUY!”
The General Manager looked at Paul. “Really,” he asked, “can you do that?”
Without hesitation, Paul replied confidently, “Of course I can. Why can’t I do it? I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
So the next day, Paul started as the head photographer at Studio 54.
That same fearlessness and willingness to jump into a situation and seize an opportunity lead to the first ever wrestling event that Paul actually promoted. In the summer of ’85, another famous nightclub, the Palladium, opened and created fierce competition for Studio 54 and took many of its employees. Amidst the fallout, Paul walks into Studio 54 one day and says, “I can produce Friday nights.”
“You can?” they ask.
“Sure, Why can’t I," Paul responds, "I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
Thus began Paul's journey into wrestling promotion, which would take him across the country and ultimately lead to his on-screen role as the advocate for some of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, the creation of the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) brand, which would forever change the face of professional wresting (or sports entertainment) and lead to the so-called "attitude era", his ultimate return to WWE, and the launch of his multi-media platform, The Heyman Hustle, and marketing, branding and advertising agency, The Looking4Larry Agency.
Paul’s story is unique in many ways, but it also shares many of the same qualities of other success stories told by artists, athletes and entrepreneurs. Like all, it starts with passion. Simply put, Paul is living his passion. As former professional wrestler turned UFC fighter Phil Brooks (who wrestled under the name “CM Punk”) recalls: “He showed me a picture of him when he was interviewing Bruno San Martino. He was 14 years old, and he has this big grin on his face, and it’s the same exact grin I saw last night after we got done performing in Providence, RI. Same exact grin.” Paul is doing what he loves and is passionate about, and he has not let the many trials and challenges he has faced along the way affect the sheer joy he gets out of living and working every day.
After passion comes hard work, and hustle. Like his late mother, who survived the holocaust, Paul is a true survivor. Not only is Paul back in the WWE, a company many (including himself) never thought he would work for again, he is at the top of his game and serving as the advocate for the reigning, defending, undisputed WWE world heavyweight champion – Brrrrrooooockkk Lesnar. Paul has survived because he never quit, and has spent his career seeing and seizing opportunities.
“Where there is chaos, there is opportunity,” Paul once famously declared. A mantra every entrepreneur (hell, every person) should live by. You are only down if you say you are down. The most important thing is to get up, and keep going. Whether you are an artist, athlete or entrepreneur, you are going to face many challenges, and many rejections. You are going to here “no” way more than you are going to hear “yes.” There is going to be chaos, constant chaos. It is when you embrace life’s challenges and see the opportunities within the chaos that you will be able to succeed. It is easy to let negative experiences affect you, but you have to press on and see past it all. In Paul’s words:
“Experience is the greatest inhibitor of creativity and innovation, because you learn from experience what not to do. But it’s the unbridled passion, and the fearlessness to just go into something with reckless abandon that allows you to create something from nothing, that allows you to innovate…” Be fearless, and live your passion.
For more on Paul’s story, check out the “Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman” DVD, or watch it for free when you subscribe to the WWE Network.