As Gail turns the page to a new chapter of her career, she recalls the life lessons that got her to the top of her profession. Here, she finds the advice that will propel her forward to whatever is next—and it’s the same advice that can help you turn your
New Year’s Resolutions into a lifestyle that works.
BY GAIL KIM-IRVINE
The start of a new year always has one thinking of resolutions or new beginnings. I normally don’t make new year’s resolutions but this year I found that the beginning of 2018 coincided with a major transition in my life. I retired from professional wrestling after 17 years and found myself at a crossroads. When I began my career, I didn’t think about the end. I just knew I was going for my dream in life and hoped for the best. Looking back, I now know I was very fortunate to have a career for this long. Now that I’m looking forward to the future and what it has in store for me, I wanted to share the best advice from lessons I learned along the way. Recalling these lessons will help me achieve whatever I pursue next—and they can do the same for you.
1) DO WHAT YOU LOVE
I truly believe doing what you are passionate about will always find success and happiness. When you do what you love, your “job” will never feel like work (most of the time) and being passionate is the key. Whatever you can’t stop thinking about in your spare time? That’s a passion. I fell in love with pro wrestling when I was young and it felt amazing to break in. But I must be honest: once I got there it didn’t always feel like a dream come true. The industry had serious ups and downs throughout my career—and women weren’t always taken seriously. During the tough times, my passion is what got me through. It made me fight for what I believed in and helped me get through the negative stages. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m human and almost quit at one time when things were really low. But sometimes you just need a break to step back and evaluate. Once I did that, my passion reignited and I accomplished even more than I ever dreamed possible.
This can also be applied to a New Year’s resolutions. Many people ask how I get so motivated to stay fit. I just always was into fitness and health so it was easy for me to work out and get there. Keeping me interested? That’s another story. I always tell people that if you’re not motivated, find something you love to do. Whether it’s outdoor sports or just walking the dog, use that as a starting point. I started out interested in weightlifting and always enjoyed the old-school straight forward approach. I’ve broadened my horizons since then. Now I have tried several different classes and have found myself addicted to them. Being in a group setting also keeps you accountable and motivated.
2) BE PATIENT
This is probably the hardest piece of advice to follow; oftentimes concepts that sound simple are the most difficult in practice. (Ever tell someone who just got dumped to “get over it”? It’s kind of like that.) Back when I was starting out in wrestling, I knew what my goal was, but I was unrealistic about how long it would take. To master my craft and become a pro took years. To be a leader and be completely confident in my role probably took eight years! Don’t pressure yourself to get to your goal too quickly. Remember, good things take time. When I knew I wanted to become a wrestler, I knew I had to be physically ready as well. Reaching my fitness goals took time as well. I had a background in kinesiology and nutrition which helped some but I also learned more from just trying different things. Which meant different workouts, different diet regimens and different trainers. All of which took time to weed out what didn’t work and focus only on what did.
3) BE MENTALLY FOCUSED
I’ve always been the type of personality that once I know what my goal is, I doggedly pursue it, and I’m a huge believer in making things happen mentally first. I always said from the very beginning, “WHEN I make it….” not “IF I make it….” and I truly believed it. Being mentally positive and goal-oriented is more than half the battle.
There are, of course, moments of self-doubt or negativity from yourself or others. Don’t worry. That’s normal to have a dip here and there. Do whatever it takes to get out of the funk and stay motivated. For me, it was as simple as looking at daily positive quotes. It might sound corny but it worked! I found one I really identified with, got me super motivated and I would look at it every day. I also knew working out was my stress relief so I made sure to train as much as I could to clear my mind of distractions. It was my form of meditation.
4) TAKE RISKS
Sometimes it’s so scary to take risks. Playing it safe brings a definite sense of security to most, and so the concept of “easing” into a new routine is attractive. But it can also keep you stuck in old habits. Sometimes you will have to face your fears and just do it! I have always preferred to face my fears than hesitate and look back with regret. Even if I look like a fool, I would rather say I tried.
Bet on yourself. I left a very financially secure job (leaving WWE for TNA) because I felt like my life and talent was passing me by. It was scary to take that step, but I would never have accomplished anything without taking that risk. Following my heart and passion paid off in the long run.
5) KEEP LEARNING
Up to the day I retired I remained a student of my craft. Even when others perceive you to be a master, there’s always something new to learn. Things keep evolving and for most occupations, there are always new skills to acquire. For me, learning the television aspect of our business—and not just the performative aspect—was a steep learning curve. All I thought I had to know was how to wrestle. I had to learn a lot about television production, storytelling, live events, and public speaking, just to name a few. My advice is simple: if you don’t know how to do something, look to the people who are better than you. Always strive to learn new skills in your job or just in everyday life. You’ll find that it will contribute to your life in some positive—and unexpected—ways.
6) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed there are two kinds of people. Those who are negative and prefer to live by the motto “misery loves company”, who surround themselves with people who are, in their eyes, inferior to them to make themselves feel good. Then there are those who surround themselves with positive, inspiring people. When I was in my 20’s and in a cutthroat work environment, I found myself easily being pulled into a negative space without even knowing it. Getting sucked into that space is easier to fall into than finding positivity. I remember a time when women’s wrestling was essentially dead and I was already unhappy. The company brought in a new female star and I wasn’t exactly being myself. I’m normally easy to get along with, yet I wasn’t very warm towards her. I went home one day and asked myself why I was so unhappy and why I was being different. The resentment grew so much that I misplaced my anger on other people. I apologized for my coldness and it sounds crazy but it was a turning point in my life. I learned that carrying all that negative energy was truly eating me up and I never got anything accomplished. From that point on, things changed. She is my best friend now and is the most positive, amazing woman to be around. From that, things started to turn around in every aspect of my life. It’s amazing what can happen when you face the truth and tackle it head on.
7) DON’T SETTLE
It sounds cliché, but it’s true. You only live once. Don’t settle for anything but the best for yourself. From relationships, to your physical well-being, to your work, always remember your worth. I even remember saying to my friends at a young age, “I want to be treated like a queen and I will treat my husband like a king.” But being young, I was fiercely independent and strong and I found myself in relationships where I was the dominant one. I thought I wanted to wear the pants in the relationship to keep my independence. Then I met my husband and I realized that I didn’t have to settle. I found someone who inspired me, motivated me, and loved me and I didn’t have to sacrifice anything. He supports my independence while being an inspiration at the same time.
Now that my retirement has become reality, all I’ve said is that whatever I do next, I want to be as passionate for this next step in life as I was with the last. All my experiences along the way have prepared me for this next phase. Stay true to yourself and all your dreams can become a reality.