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A Lesson in Mental Fortitude

John Cena drew similarities between the c-store industry and his public-facing career in the WWE during the closeout of the 2023 NACS Show.
2023 NACS Show_John Cena

ATLANTA — The convenience store industry's premier annual tradeshow ended with a bang — or perhaps a powerslam — as professional wrestler, actor and philanthropist John Cena took the stage during the last general session of the 2023 NACS Show.

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Working off of the theme, "Inspired Every Day," Cena described his journey to wrestling as a series of happy accidents. It started with his primary schooling and college where, he remarked, he "majored in working out" to getting his start in small local wrestling companies before moving onto the WWE.

Cena paralleled his public-facing career to the frontline of the c-store industry. "We're both in the customer service business," he said. 

He expanded on the idea, pointing out that while many in the audience may work for a larger convenience store chain like RaceTrac Inc. or Sheetz Inc., there's a personal brand that can be created by building a relationship with every customer who walks through the door. It's a lesson he learned while working for the WWE as an organization, where he not only had to represent the larger company, but also himself.

"Treat every opportunity as if it's the first, and be just as hungry for every one you find," he advised the NACS Show audience.

During a conversation with Kevin Paul Scott, author and cofounder of Atlanta-based leadership consultancy ADDO Worldwide, the two discussed some of the ways a person could work to overcome difficulties, whether in their professional or personal life.

Cena pointed out that while everyone feels out of sorts at some point or wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, the important part is to acknowledge when it's happening and then work on the things that can directly be controlled.

"We really can't control anything except our own actions and reactions," he said. "Sometimes, we just need to take a moment to step back and remind ourselves of that, and it can help us keep our cool when we need it."

Scott then brought the subject around to what Cena himself looks for in a convenience store experience. The professional wrestler remarked that because he traveled so much to different cities as part of his career, c-stores became the primary place for him to pick up water, protein bars and ready-to-drink meal replacements before sitting in a stadium basement waiting to film.

"You guys set me up every day for my day," he told the audience.

The session ended with a lively round of questions from the audience, where Cena spoke on everything from his favorite place to get roast beef in his home state of Massachusetts (Bill and Bob's off of Route 1); to which side he'd be on in the Star Wars universe (Sith, since "it'd be fun to play a bad guy"); to some things he likes to do for fun (appreciating a fancy glass of a single malt).

When asked how he maintains mental fortitude to keep up his physical workout regime, his answer could apply to the life and experiences of the c-store industry audience.

"It's an infinite journey, not a destination. I don't want to work out until I'm 47 and then stop. I want to keep going until I'm 97," he said. "Even if something is difficult, it's still OK to have a passion for and want to do things that aren't necessarily easy for you."

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The 2023 NACS Show took place Oct. 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The 2024 NACS Show will be hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center Oct. 7-10, 2024.

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