Lessons from Wrestling Part III

Back in highschool, I would run on a treadmill a lot. I’d run to stay in shape, and more importantly I’d run to sweat off those last pounds of water weight before a tournament or meet.

I remember one time I was running and overheard someone telling a teacher that so-and-so had just won a state championship in wrestling. The teacher replied: “that and a buck will get you a cup of coffee.”

I didn’t slow my pace. I remember thinking “that guy’s an idiot.” Even still, there was a voice in my head that was wandering “is all this work worth it?”

Of course, there is a philosophy that doing something you’re passionate about is worth the effort no matter what. I subscribe to that…but it’s still nice to know there is also a return on investment!

So – has my wrestling translated into anything career wise? Has it equaled more than $0 in value? I think so.

When I was interviewing at Bessemer Venture Partners, one of the most respected venture capital firms in the world, they wanted to get it through my head that this was not a glamorous role. This is not flying on a jet and casting the tie breaking vote in board meetings. This is hard work, and on the junior levels where sourcing is the focus, it can be VERY hard work. The question came up again and again (I had nearly 30 interviews) – “what have you done that’s hard in life? Why do you think you can do this job?”

I relayed the story of cutting 12 pounds one night before a big tournament. To cut a long story short, it required a lot of running and sweating and not replacing those fluids until after the weigh in. That was good enough to pass their bar.

Wrestling gave me confidence in my ability to do things I didn’t think possible, like cut 12 pounds in a night, or work 40 hours straight (something I had to do twice as a banking analyst). It let the fear about my abilities dissolve, at least a little bit. When you go into a week and you’re already tired, and you know that you won’t get more than 8 hours of sleep by thursday (and that the weekend will be spent working), it can be very daunting. The hardships you endure through wrestling allow you to focus on the task at hand, not on the fear that you may not be able to cut it.

When I interviewed at Harvard Business School, wrestling came up again and again. Ever have interpersonal issues with team members? What goals have you set out and achieved? What have been the most defining moments of your life?

So, in the end, I think that teacher was wrong. A buck and a state championship will get you a lot more than a cup of coffee. In fact, I’d say that the pursuit of something challenging, where you have to push yourself and strive, will get you so much more than you ever bargained for. It just so happens that wrestling is one of the best ways to have these sorts of experiences.

Vote here if you think wrestling should stay in the olympics:http://www.insidethegames.biz/polls/75-which-sport-do-you-think-should-be-part-of-the-olympic-programme-for-2020