Archaeology Hack #7: Be like Mr. T

What can Mr. T teach you about archaeology?I’m trying to get in shape so I’ve started working out. The only problem is: I don’t like working out. I know it’s important for a cultural resource management archaeologist to be in good physical shape, but why can’t exercise be as much fun as eating a plate of super nachos while drinking a huge, frosty glass of beer?

In order to get in the mood for exercise, I’ve been drawing upon YouTube clips of well-known 1980s action movies and playlists of the iconic music from these flicks. It helps…..kinda.

This week I was watching one particularly awesome clip from Rocky III that reminded me of some advice I’ve learned about becoming more marketable to other cultural resource management firms.

Eye of the Tiger

In case you didn’t know, Rocky III rules. Okay. Now that we’ve got that over with, I can talk about archaeology.

Rocky III opens with the legendary song “Eye of the Tiger,” which has now become synonymous with the Rocky franchise. Instead of using it to showcase the skills and talents of Rocky Balboa, the song is used in a montage of how his nemesis for the film, Clubber Lang played by Mr. T, gets motivated to take Balboa down in the ring. Sick of seeing Rocky fight inadequate foes, we see Clubber Lang rise from his seat in the stadium where he’s watching Rocky fight and start training to take on the champion.

Words can’t do this montage justice. Here’s a YouTube clip that explains it better:

As you can see, Clubber Lang demonstrates two activities any cultural resource management archaeologist should be honing: Drive to go the extra mile and the willingness to become a T-person.

“Did my time, took my chances…”

When Clubber saw an opportunity to challenge the champ, he didn’t just sit there and consult Facebook about what he should do next. He stood up from his seat, grabbed a rad Nike tank top, and started jogging through the streets of Chicago while practicing punching.

Becoming a cultural resource management archaeologist can be a grind. You will have to keep grinding in order to outlast the hundreds of other college grads, job candidates, and competition. This job is not going to fall into your hands without you having to expend some effort. There is a job waiting for anyone out there willing to grind it out long enough to become a CRM archaeologist. If you’re willing to put in the work networking, going to college, and honing your skills, who’s to say you can’t do this? Who gets to tell someone that is busting their ass that they don’t deserve success?

The pathway from where you are now to where you want to be will not be easy. You will experience setbacks and disappointments. Other people will let you down. You will let others down. But, at the end of the day, the person out there grinding is a helluva lot better off than those who say, “I wanted to be an archaeologist but…” There’s no guarantee you will win the title but at least you gave it your all.

It’s also important to remember that Clubber didn’t just jog a couple miles, do some sit-ups, and call Rocky’s manager to schedule a fight. He defeated a bunch of other foes in a decisive manner, working his way up to the top. He only got a chance to fight Rocky after proving his worth.

It takes years of college, working, success, failure, and being a CRMer before you become eligible to work at the highest levels. There are so many things that can happen along the way that will convince you that you need to go down another path but the people running most CRM companies are individuals who have been there and done that. They have dozens of projects under their belt. Like Clubber Lang, they’ve worked their way up to the top and proven they are capable of being CRM supervisors.

You don’t get to run crews in the field just because you have a graduate degree. Expect to prove yourself. The process builds character.

“…with the skill to survive”

Clubber Lang did not try and become a finesse fighter. You don’t see him jumping rope or using the speed bag. He’s not increasing his agility by catching chickens in a vacant lot in downtown Philadelphia. In the montage, he’s not using tricky moves and speed to beat his opponents. Clubber Lang is all about power. He simply slams his opponents like a sledge hammer until they collapse to the canvas. That’s how he beat Rocky in their first fight of the movie.

It doesn’t mean Clubber does not know how to properly box just because he uses power. He clearly worked on stamina by jogging. He probably learned some footwork and sparring; however, we can clearly see Clubber’s favorite/main tool was power blows. And, he used them particularly well.

The most successful CRMers have specialized knowledge of a particular aspect of the industry while also possessing knowledge about a wide range of other topics. This is the essence of being a T-person. T-people have a depth of knowledge in a particular subject (the vertical line in the T) and a wealth of knowledge of other topics (the horizontal line in the letter). I have written about this before so I won’t belabor the importance of this fact.

If you’re new to the industry, you might be thinking, “I don’t have a depth of knowledge in any one subject.” That’s probably not true. If you think about it, your life has given you experiences that most other people haven’t had. One way to identify areas where you have a breadth of knowledge is by identifying your core competencies. This exercise can take as long as you like.

Spend some time making a list of some of the things you do well and topics you have studied in depth. Of course you probably know more about your Capstone Thesis topic than most other folks, but also think of other skills and attributes you have that set you apart from other people. Tenacity, stamina, the ability to simply explain complex ideas, writing skills, physical abilities, ect. All of these things are useful for a CRM company.

On the other hand, you should think about creating a list of things you currently do not know but need to know in order to build your career. Understanding of how a business works is usually the thing archaeologists know the least about. Other desirable knowledge areas include technical writing, photography, photo editing, desktop publishing, GIS, and personnel management. Learning enough to be dangerous about any of these non-archaeology related topics will boost your career.

Clubber Lang Loses in the End of the Movie

While I’ve been a Mr. T fan for over 30 years, it pains me think about how Clubber Lang loses in the end of Rocky III. All that effort. All those hours spent jogging and doing pull-ups. The whole montage backed with a song that was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year. All wasted when Rocky took advantage of Clubber’s Achilles Heel and used it against him. You see, Clubber was so fond of power punches that he used too many on Rocky. Exhausted after wasting power punches on Rocky for a couple rounds, Clubber fell to the protagonist. Rocky was heavyweight champion again. All was right in the Rocky franchise.

Clubber Lang lost in the end but that doesn’t mean he was a loser. He acted on his desire to become the champ and threw himself into the ring. Clubber literally fought his way to the top, got a chance at the title, took it, beat Rocky, and became the champion for a brief second. His success didn’t last. It never does. But, he still stands as one of the few individuals in the Rocky movies that actually beat Rocky.

It may not seem like it but Mr. T’s character in Rocky III is an example of what can happen when you apply yourself, develop a specialty and use it to further your career. Writing this post would have been too easy if I used Rocky Balboa as an example. The character has six movies about his success. We already know that story. On the other hand, we don’t know the story of most of Rocky’s opponents. Turns out they are success stories in their own right even if they lose to Rocky at the end of the movie.

Throw all of your effort into your cultural resource management archaeology career search. Cultivate a specialty but make sure you also have a breadth of knowledge on other CRM-related subjects. These are two things I’ve learned along the way that have served me well. I hope these tips help you as well.

I would love to hear what you think. Please, write a comment below or send me an email.


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