Diamond Dallas Page: How I Overcame My Learning Disabilities

The former wrestler shares how he was basically illiterate at age 30, a sufferer of dyslexia. It was an untamed drive to learn (and a little help from Lee Iacocca) that helped him overcome this disability.

Retired professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page has seen a lot of success both in the ring and out of it. A three-time World Heavyweight Champion, Page was one of the WCW's biggest stars during its mid-to-late 1990s heydey. Since then, he's become an accomplished actor, fitness instructor, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker. He is the founder of DDP Yoga and author of the book Yoga For Regular Guys. Becoming an author is probably one of DDP's greatest accomplishments considering the fact that he was borderline illiterate up until his 30s.


Page explained in his recent Big Think interview how hard work and tenacity helped him overcome dyslexia and ADD during a time when those disorders weren't as widely understood:

Before he was handing out Diamond Cutters in the squared circle, Diamond Dallas Page was a 31-year-old nightclub manager in Fort Myers, FL. He was also only able to read at a third-grade level in large part due to his learning disabilities. Page, embarrassed by this shortcoming, made a set decision to do something about it. He decided he was going to a read book. A big book. And he was going to read it cover to cover:

"Now that may not seem like that big a deal to most of the people watching me talk right now but to me at that point in my life it was fucking overwhelming."

The book Page chose for his daunting task was Lee Iacocca's first autobiography, a 352-page volume detailing the automobile magnate's career with Ford and Chrysler. Page approached the project with the same steadfast determination he reserves for achieving all his goals. He was going to be tenacious. He was not going to give up. And after a year, his perseverance finally paid off:

"I was going to read one page from that book every day. And I just didn’t think it, I inked it and I put it everywhere. Once I made that decision I was like 'I’m going to do this.' I put 'read today' and I stuck it on my bathroom mirror. I stuck it on my nightstand, my headboard, my refrigerator, my car. It was everywhere. I was in the nightclub business back then so I didn’t always read right before I went to bed because I knew I might be out raising hell that night. But before that day was over, before I headed out to the club I was going to get one page from that book in. And it took me a year but I read that fucker from one end to the other."

When recalling his favorite story from the the Iacocca book, Page prefaces with a little bit about how wrestlers see the world a little different from everyone else. Pro wrestling is built around a code known as "kayfabe," which necessitates that the illusion of genuine competition and portrayal of events as unscripted never be broken. After operating under this code for so long, wrestlers begin to see the entire world as "a work," or set up. Everything has a logic to it; spectacles are but the residue of design. Page calls pro wrestling the original reality TV, which is apt in the sense that shows like Duck Dynasty present a scripted form of reality. It's all a work to Diamond Dallas Page.

So Page's favorite part of Iacocca's book is a story involving the original Ford Mustang, introduced in 1964:

"[The Mustang was] the biggest sensation in the auto industry at that time. And they only made a few of them. They didn’t make like bazillions of them. They made [only] so many of them. And on the day that the Mustang was in the showroom, a guy in a tractor trailer saw the car, couldn’t take his eyes off the car, went right through the light, crash[ed], went right through a building, destroyed everything. He, of course, walked away and no one was injured. That means that was a work." 

Ever skeptical, Page loves the thought that the 18-wheeler plowing into the side of a building was just a set up. He calls it brilliant, the perfect spectacle to boost the car's legend. It's not altogether unlike how iconic matches against Goldberg, explosive video promos, self high fives, and the infamous Diamond Cutter helped contribute to the legend of Diamond Dallas Page.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.