Dave Bautista Shares Failures That Turned Into Greatest Lessons

The Talking Series is a weekly segment that delves deeper into topics discussed by guests on the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast.

You likely don’t know who Mary Anne Evans is, but we guarantee you know her famous idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Written in 1860 under the pen name George Eliot, the metaphor warns against assessing value based on appearance. Tattoos are a great example.

In the early 20th century, the public viewed those with tattoos as criminals and delinquents. Since then, tattoos have gone from the fringes of society to a $3 billion-a-year industry. Like many who are heavily tatted, actor Dave Bautista (Dune, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) and John Kural know all too well that people still judge. The friends opened DC Society Ink together, a high-end tattoo studio in Tampa, FL, that was a dream project for both.

Although they’re both doing well now, that wasn’t always the case. Before becoming a famous wrestler and Hollywood A-lister, Dave was just a kid growing up in a rough Washington, D.C. neighborhood where he watched the mob deliver fatal beatings. Murder was common. John didn’t have it any easier growing up in Puerto Rico, where neighborhoods were plagued by poverty, unemployment, and crime.

We had the pleasure of meeting with Bautista and Kural at DC Society Ink in downtown Tampa to record an episode of the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast. We gleaned some of the best life advice from Bautista. Here’s the actor’s top tips on chasing your dreams.

1. Don’t chase money

Want to be successful? Then don’t make money your top priority. It may seem counterintuitive, but chasing money only distracts you from what’s truly important—putting in the work. It’s easy to assume that WWE superstar Bautista was motivated by the material trappings of fame, but nothing could be further from the truth. Not being preoccupied with his paycheck allowed him to be hyperfocused on honing his craft, which furthered his success. Try to think of “…money [as] a byproduct of chasing what you’re passionate about,” he says. Whether your passion is playing guitar, painting cityscapes, or body slamming opponents, Dave believes “Money [should] never be the goal.”

2. Find mentors

In a 1675 letter to Robert Hooke, Sir Isaac Newton humbly wrote, “If I have seen further, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Unless this is your introduction to the Everyday Warrior, you know how strongly we identify with this quote. Still, when we hear names like Ric Flair and Triple H, we think of legendary wrestlers and can’t help but feel the excitement of watching their iconic moments in the ring. Bautista thinks of them as mentors and is forever grateful they invested time in helping him grow personally and professionally. “I wouldn’t have gotten to where I [am] if it wasn’t for them… I owe them my career,” says Bautista. “Especially Triple H… he mentored me and made me a star,” he adds. Regardless of your profession, mentors are crucial for success. Find someone with a career you’d like to emulate and learn all you can from them. Standing on their shoulders will allow you to see an entire world you never knew existed.

3. Take chances

It’s no secret we all have dreams. What separates those who continue dreaming from those who wake up and turn their dreams into reality? The answer is simple: risk. That’s because opportunities only come to those willing to put it all on the line. Dave was 30 years old when he decided to take a shot at professional wrestling. At that age, failure wasn’t a possibility but a probability. That didn’t matter. Dave knew his drive and work ethic made it less of a gamble and more of a calculated risk. After becoming a world champion, he risked everything again to chase his dream of acting. The WWE superstar struggled to find work for three years before finally landing his breakthrough role in Guardians of the Galaxy. “My house ended up getting foreclosed on; I was making no money,” he says.

Still, he believed in himself enough to stay focused and push forward. Risking it all is intimidating but far less so than living with the regret of not taking your shot.

Those with the courage to risk it all quickly learn you can never truly catch a dream. That’s because once you grab it, something incredible happens—it changes. Dreams are also far more challenging to achieve than they appear. When someone succeeds, all we see is the fruit of their labor, but not the hard work and sacrifices it took to get them there.

Bautista and Kural are making the necessary sacrifices for DC Society Ink to be successful. Incredibly, two men with such a connection to chasing dreams have come together around an art form that helps people honor their past and celebrate their future. In this way, tattoos are far more than inked skin—they’re visual representations of the dreams we’ve caught and those we’re still chasing.

Check out the whole conversation with Dave Bautista and John Kural on The Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, available now.

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