What Tony Hawk & New York Taught Me About Success

By Justin Cunningham Marketing, Results, Sales, Transformation No Comments on What Tony Hawk & New York Taught Me About Success

What does skateboarding and freestyle rapping have to do with getting results in business?

In my case – quite a lot.

I first started skateboarding when I was 7 years old. I loved it.

I was well and truly under it’s spell of being physical challenging, daring, combined with rebellious creativity.

I would always read Skateboarder magazine after my older brother had finished with it to watch what was the latest trick and to try and figure out how to do them from the photos. This was before skate videos became readily available in New Zealand where I grew up. I loved skateboarding so much I eventually got good, and became a local champion and then nationally ranked.

At the National championships in 1979 I got third place, and was introduced to concrete skateboard parks the hard way with 9 stitches in my head.

I quickly learnt that you needed a foundation to win at skateboarding, but also if you weren’t facing fear on some level, you weren’t going hard enough. This attitude took me to many great moments, culminating in skating with some of the best ramp skateboarders in history, including skaters like Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Chris Miller, Danny Way and Mark ‘Gator’ Rogowski.

When you studied the greats you learnt that there was a price to pay for success, but that finding the small little things that make a big difference was the key to succeeding more than falling. I took that lesson to heart.

Year later I caught another cultural bug. This time it was freestyle rap.

The ability to just improvise an engaging and musical flow of lyrics was intoxicating. I would spend every day practising by myself or with friends. I was in love with this art form and I was 100% committed to being the best I could be.

So much so that I moved city to advance my skills, then I started organising rap battles locally, then nationally, and then internationally.

Finally, to truly prove my freestyle rap skills I took myself to Hiphop Mecca aka New York.

If I was to truly become a champion, I had to face my greatest fears and battle the best. So I did.

I flew by myself  for 22 hours in a plane and arrived at New York to a storm in September.

Two days later I went to qualifying for the Rock Steady Crew Anniversary MC Battle on the lower east side of Manhattan to put my skills to the test. This white boy from New Zealand was finally here and it was now time to put up or shut up.

I watched the other contestants perform and immediately felt better, as they weren’t that good, and this left me feeling relaxed about doing my best.

The host calls my MC name ‘ Wordperfect’, and by now people had heard my foreign accent and were intrigued as to how I would do.

The other contestant was a small latino guy with some cool looking braids in his hair as was the fashion in 2002. He was first. Quickly I went in to battle mode.My mind started racing.. What could I say? What would get the crowd on my side and make him lose confidence in beating me.

Aha- The hair style! I knew just what to say.

After he nervously finished his first 60 second round of trying to score points on me, I was locked and loaded.

I replied with “..Yo, I came 22 hours in a plane to be out under some MC pressure, and all I got was Erykah Badu’s ( a big music star at the time) hairdresser!’.. The crowd went wild. The stage was set, my opponent even laughed and now there was no coming back. The battle was won, even with one more round to go. I qualified, and now on to the finals.

A few days later, I was in a 3 way final facing 1000 people in mid town New York going for the title and it didn’t go as well, but I managed to finish third. I hadn’t coped with my nerves and I struggled to relax to allow my words to flow. But, hey I put myself on the path of opportunity, and at the time nobody from my country had achieved as much.

Face Your Fears & Win

As a 17 year old I had let my friend Lloyd who was a hairdresser dye my hair platinum white for a hair show. I thought I looked pretty cool (Billy Idol was popular at the time) but I was mocked badly at high school and was really affected by it. I never dyed my hair again but I did grow my hair long, and then got braids when it was long enough. Whilst emotionally scarred, I was still taking risks and standing out. I didn’t know it then but years later I would discover that most businesses weren’t unique (even though they thought they were) and that my ability to be brave and stand out was an attribute a lot of businesses needed to stand out in the market place.

From the cuts and bruises, judgement and challenges I had learnt that at the end of the day fear is merely a sign. Whilst you may have a few falls and collect a few scars, the people who keep pushing through get the results and the rewards.

Fear is merely a sign that change, that transformation, is near.

And, when you face it and step in to it, it is never as scary as you first thought.

Sure you may fall from time to time, yes you will be judged, but you will have results that others simply dream about.

Most people will judge you on some level and have an opinion, but the truth is most will never hold dominion.

Most people are held back by fear, by expressing how they really feel, by being judged. But as a person who always used fear to drive me to greater things. I can tell you that if you truly want results – you must embrace the unknown and your fear.

Because if there’s fear – your results and success are near.



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