Seven years ago this week, I got some advice from one of the broadcasters who I count among the most influential in my career in communications.
Long before I wanted to tell stories in news, I was in love with sports. Jack Buck, Dick Enberg and Verne Lundquist were my favorites. As a kid, I got to meet Buck. As a professional, I got to interview Lundquist. I was truly blessed.
It wasn't until the late 1990s that sports entertainment joined sports as something I truly enjoyed, and the most definitive voice of professional wrestling in its most beloved periods has been Jim Ross. Like Buck, Enberg and Lundquist with the story lines of their events, Good Ol' JR has the ability to build up drama and emotion to an even greater level that what the athletes alone are providing.
Beyond the ring, Ross finds passion in the Oklahoma Sooners. In late 2010, OU football visited Texas A&M. Ross almost always travels with team, and through a person I knew in the A&M athletic department, I was able to contact him. Ross graciously agreed to an appearance on KBTX's pre-game show from Kyle Field.
Not only had I booked a WWE Hall of Famer, I also acted as his escort, walking him from where the Sooners' bus pulled up to Kyle, across the field, past a preparing Bob Stoops on OU's bench, and to the set of Aggie Gameday. We chatted about his career and mine, which at the time had me as one of KBTX's morning anchors. On the show, he talked up Aggieland, analyzed the upcoming game, and plugged his delicious bar-b-q sauce and food products. He was one of Gameday's best guests ever.
At the time, I was doing YouTube videos for the morning show, and Ross was kind enough to take a couple of minutes for me. Among the words of wisdom:
"I've always believed that my success I've had was because I was doing what I loved to do, and I was doing it with a company I wanted to be working for at that time."
About six months later, I found some struggles professionally and personally. I was searching for answers and struggling to find them alone.
For some reason, still having his email address, I reached out to Jim Ross. In addition to broadcasting events, he served for years as WWE's head of talent relations, dealing with a roster of performers with a wide range of goals, attitudes and life experiences.
I thought it was a long shot that he would reply to a person he had dealt with for a matter of an hour in person and over a few emails, but why not take a shot?
JR replied about five hours later. I was truly blessed.
The message read, in part:
"You need to create 'you' time. You can't maximize your professional potential if work becomes your life. Won't work. Life needs balance. ... The issues won't be solved unless you want to change. ... You only pass thru life once best that I can tell so why not enjoy it? Don't try & solve ur perceived issues alone. Hope this helps & I wish you the best."
I have no doubt that he has said similar words to people like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, John Cena, and other people known worldwide. The fact that he would write them to me was awe-inspiring then. It still is now.
Ross is back now with WWE after a stint away from the company, working on special events like an upcoming women's tournament on the WWE Network. In his time away from the company, he called wrestling and boxing matches for other organizations. He still works for New Japan Pro Wrestling's American broadcasts on AXS TV. He continues to run his bar-b-q business. He is a popular podcaster with his weekly show through PodcastOne. To say he has kept busy is an understatement, but he was busy seven years ago, too.
And he emailed me.
As he noted in the video above, JR has persevered through three bouts of facial paralysis known as Bell's Palsy. And earlier this year, his wife Jan died in a crash near their home, a matter he has dealt with publicly and honestly through his podcast. He has had struggles like we all do, but ends each show with a reminder for his listeners to do something nice for someone, and in a spin-off to what he said to me, to remember that our tomorrow's are never guaranteed.
I revisit that email of his to me every so often. In fact, I thought about it today and realized it was almost seven years to the day he sent it.
I've had the honor of chatting and trading messages with some remarkable people. Just as Jim Ross holds a high spot in my broadcasting idols, his email to me holds a special place and always will. Maybe his message will help you, too.