There were 30 seconds left in the match, and I was ahead 4-0 on points. My opponent escaped a few seconds later, bringing us to 4-1. An entire wrestling match (at that time anyway) is seven minutes long, so it would seem easy to win a match where I was able to amass a 4-0 lead during the first 6.5 minutes. But as with recruiting, “a deal can fall apart at any time.”
Knowing his time was almost up, my opponent went into a frenzy of activity … attacking me any way he could, knowing he had nothing to lose at this point. With a mere five seconds left in the match, he got a hold of me. He threw me onto my back (two points for the takedown — the score now 4-3), then held me there for the three seconds until the buzzer went off to signal the match was over. Those three seconds earned him two “back points,” putting the score at 5-4 in his favor … and I officially lost.
This was my last wrestling match of my senior year, my last match in my high school wrestling career. That year I was 34-3 in my weight class (130 pounds), my only three losses coming from the state champion, the regional champion, and the match I just described. It was the culmination of four years of blood, sweat, and tears … and I lost a fluke match to a foe when I was clearly the better wrestler.
I don’t tell this story as a way of inviting you all to my pity party. Quite the contrary, I tell this story to explain why wrestling was such a big part of making me the recruiter I am today.
As anyone who has played competitive sports can tell you, your legacy basically all boils down to what you did at the end of each year at tournament time. Five years later, no one remembers the team that was undefeated during the season but didn’t make it to the super bowl. Likewise, I didn’t get any credit for being 31-0 until my regional final match. The fact is I came in second in the region, and lost my very final match.
Here’s the great news: in recruiting, there is no “final tournament.” So you get credit for all your wins (and your losses), and your overall record at the end of the year (your billings) is what matters, not whether you lost a match or two along the way.
Among the positive traits I gained from wrestling, some of the most transferrable to recruiting are resilience, hard work, dedication to a craft, and sacrifice. For me, 10 years of wrestling was the best possible “orientation” to recruiting I could have experienced. We’ve all wanted to leave the office at 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. but instead made the critical choice to stay and continuing pushing for a brand new client. Sometimes that sacrifice, that extra push, gets you the “win” (a placement) and sometimes it doesn’t.
Wrestling taught me that you have to be willing to work hard all the time … whether you feel great or exhausted, whether your won or lost your last match, and regardless of what the people around you are doing. In both sports and recruiting, if you do the right thing and work hard all the time, you will end up with a very impressive record (without necessarily winning every single match along the way). I’ve experienced what it feels like to try to outwork everyone in sight then lose a critical match. But in the end my record was 34-3. In recruiting if you outwork everyone in sight, you will likely have way more successes than failures, be compensated better than most of your peers, and be a sought-after commodity.
Work smart, work hard, don’t be distracted by a few defeats along the way — and your future will be very bright. Perhaps you’ll go undefeated.